From within a glass enclosure, Russian political dissident Alexei Navalny smiled and made heart gestures to his wife not long before a judge on Tuesday sentenced him to two years and eight months in a penal colony.
Navalny was arrested in a Moscow airport on January 17 after returning from Germany, where he had been recovering since the summer from a poison attack linked to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Because of his time abroad, officials say that Navalny was in violation of his probation for a 2014 fraud conviction, which supporters claim was orchestrated to prevent him from running for office.
In court, Navalny argued that because he had arrived in Germany while comatose and was only there for the duration of his rehabilitation, he did not violate the conditions of his parole.
"I contacted my lawyer to send you a notice," he said. "You had the address, my contact details. What else could I have done to inform you?"
The judge disagreed and ordered him to serve two years and eight months in prison, deducting time he had already served under house arrest from his original sentence of three and a half years.
Today, Navalny was again hauled before a judge, this time for allegedly libeling a World War II veteran who took part in a video supporting a reform that would allow President Vladimir Putin to serve two more terms in office. Navalny had previously described the participants in the video as traitors.
Navalny began his political career in 2008 investigating government corruption. His videos, which have gotten millions of views, often target Russia's wealthiest and most powerful figures. Navalny's most recent video accused Putin of building a lavish Black Sea palace for himself with taxpayer funds. Putin denied owning the property. Billionaire real estate developer and Putin's childhood friend Arkady Rotenberg has claimed ownership of the massive building.
Protests erupted throughout Russia in the weeks following Navalny's arrest, with over 11,000 people being detained nationwide. A video from a protest in St. Petersburg last Sunday shows numerous instances of police beating demonstrators before arresting them. Some protesters reported being held in cramped conditions for days without access to food, water, or bathroom facilities. Navalny supporters have temporarily called off further protests.
The United States has been adamant in its denunciation of the Kremlin's actions. Speaking on Thursday during his first visit to the State Department, President Joe Biden called for the immediate release of Navalny and his supporters.
"The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community," Biden said.
Today, Russia announced it would expel diplomats from Germany, Poland, and Sweden for allegedly taking part in illegal protests. In a released statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would revoke the credentials of three foreign officials, ordering them to leave the country as soon as possible. The move drew castigation from leaders of all three countries, who labeled the measure as unjustified.