З серпня минулого року Володимир Сальдо перебуває у списку санкцій Великобританії
З серпня минулого року Володимир Сальдо перебуває у списку санкцій Великобританії
Pakistan said Thursday that it was buying discounted Russian crude oil with the implicit approval of the United States, and the first shipment is expected to arrive in the country soon.
Masood Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., made the remarks at a conference in Washington organized by the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute on the future of relations between the two countries.
“We have placed the first order for Russian oil, and this has been done in consultation with the United States government. There’s no misunderstanding between Washington and Islamabad on this count,” Khan said.
The top diplomat was responding to suggestions the energy purchase could undermine Pakistan’s already tumultuous relationship with the U.S.
“They have suggested that you are free to buy anything below or up to the price cap, and we have abided by that agreement. I think Washington is fine with that,” Khan added without elaborating.
Vote of confidence for Sharif
He spoke just hours after Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told the parliament in Islamabad his government was set to receive an inaugural shipment of Russian crude oil.
“As we speak, the Russian oil is being loaded to arrive here,” Sharif said after securing a vote of confidence from the National Assembly, the upper house of parliament, amid opposition allegations he had lost an already thin majority in the house.
A State Department spokesperson responding to Pakistan’s import of Russian energy told VOA that Washington recognizes the pressure governments face to secure affordable fuel, and each country will have to make its own choices regarding energy imports.
“We continue to coordinate with allies and partners to mitigate the impact of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine on global energy markets,” the spokesperson said. “Russia’s actions have clearly demonstrated it is not a reliable supplier of energy, and we encourage steps to reduce long-term dependence on energy supplies from Russia.”
The State Department official, however, did not address VOA’s direct question about whether the U.S. would be comfortable with Pakistan buying Russian oil as long as it’s under the price cap.
Last week, Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik said Pakistan had made its first purchase of Russian crude oil at a discounted rate and the cargo would reach the country next month via sea. He did not share further details, saying Islamabad plans to increase the import volume to 100,000 barrels per day if the first transaction with Moscow goes through smoothly.
The move was expected to bring a much-needed respite to the cash-strapped South Asian nation, with energy imports making up most of its external payments.
The Sharif government has been struggling to avert a balance of payments crisis as it awaits the resumption of financial lending from the International Monetary Fund. The Pakistani central bank’s foreign exchange reserves have lately fallen to nearly $4.5 billion, barely enough to cover a month of imports.
Ties with US back on track
Khan told the audience in Washington on Thursday that Pakistan’s ties with the United States had suffered a “brief period of uncertainty” after the U.S.-led foreign military withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, when the then-insurgent Taliban seized control of the country.
Despite being an ally of the U.S., Islamabad was accused of sheltering and supporting Taliban insurgents while they were battling the U.S. and NATO troops for almost two decades.
The Pakistani ambassador insisted the relationship with the U.S. was back on track and both sides were working to scale up economic and security partnerships.
“We are back in business. … It is important that the United States restores for Pakistan foreign military financing and foreign military sales, which were suspended by the previous [Trump] administration,” the Pakistani ambassador said.
Former President Donald Trump cut military cooperation with Pakistan, citing its covert support for the Taliban, charges Pakistani leaders rejected.
Khan stressed the need for Islamabad and Washington to work together to eliminate the Islamic State-led threat of terrorism stemming from Afghanistan, noting a surge in terror attacks in Pakistan since the Taliban’s return to power in the strife-torn neighboring country.
He said Pakistan was politically engaging with Taliban authorities to try to persuade them to deny Afghan space to terrorists waging deadly attacks in his country and those linked to Islamic State-Khorasan, the regional branch of Islamic State. Khan asserted that the U.S. was also “talking directly to Taliban cabinet ministers.”
“Let’s work together to eliminate this threat in the region,” he said. “Today, it’s a threat to Pakistan and Afghanistan. If unchecked, it will spread to other parts of the region and beyond. Urgent action is needed to fight this menace.”
Senior State Department official Elizabeth Horst, speaking at the Wilson Center conference Thursday, said the last year had helped reset the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
The two countries held midlevel defense dialogues in Washington and a counterterrorism working group in Islamabad in February and March, respectively, she said.
“Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, we have been more aligned than ever with Pakistan on how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a base for terrorism,” said the principal deputy assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary for Pakistan, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
Horst said that Washington was concerned that the number of attacks, mainly targeting Pakistani security forces, has increased.
“Pakistan has much to gain from a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, and the United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in holding the Taliban to its counterterrorism commitments.” The U.S. official said that this topic was the focus of recent dialogues between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Khan also emphasized the need to work “collectively for promoting women’s and girls’ education and inclusive governance in Afghanistan.”
No foreign government has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan. The international community is pressing the Taliban leadership to remove bans on women’s access to education and work. The hard-line de facto authorities are also required to give representation to all Afghan ethnic groups in their administration.
VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to this report.
За фахом Олександр Бондаренко – український філолог, навчався у Луганському педагогічному університеті, працював на кількох українських телеканалах
З відкритих джерел відомо, що головою Полтавського районного суду Полтавської області є Лариса Богомолова
A Ukrainian journalist working with an Italian newspaper was shot dead by suspected Russian snipers in southern Ukraine on Wednesday. His Italian colleague was injured, the paper reported.
“Our correspondent Corrado Zunino and his fixer Bohdan Bitik were victims of an ambush near the bridge in Kherson by Russian snipers on the outskirts of Kherson, in southern Ukraine,” the daily newspaper La Repubblica reported Wednesday in an article on its website.
“Bitik unfortunately did not make it and died; he leaves behind his wife and a son. Corrado, who was wounded in the shoulder, is in the civil hospital in Kherson,” the newspaper said.
The reporters were targeted near the Antonivsky Bridge, which crosses the Dnipro River on the outskirts of Kherson in southern Ukraine, after passing through a series of Ukrainian checkpoints. The journalists reportedly were trying to speak to Ukrainian forces positioned near the bridge.
Russian forces left the western portion of the city last year but still often shell it from the eastern part.
When the men were attacked, both were wearing blue bulletproof vests marked with “PRESS” on the front and back.
“I’m well, I’ve got a wound in my right shoulder, shaved by the bullet that hit my great friend Bohdan,’’ Zunino told La Repubblica. “I saw Bohdan on the ground, he wasn’t moving. I crawled until I got out of the line of fire. I ran until I came across a civilian’s car. I was covered in blood. I got myself taken to the hospital in Kherson.
“I tried several times to call Bohdan. He didn’t answer. He was a great friend of mine; the pain is excruciating,” Zunino said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, urged Kyiv and Moscow to investigate the ambush.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Ukrainian producer Bohdan Bitik and wish Italian reporter Corrado Zunino a speedy recovery,” Gulnoza Said, who works on Ukraine at the CPJ, said in a statement Thursday.
“Russian and Ukrainian authorities must swiftly investigate this tragic attack and ensure that journalists are not targeted while reporting on the war in Ukraine. Members of the press are civilians under international humanitarian law and should be protected as such,” Said continued.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said his ministry and the Italian Embassy in Kyiv were working with Ukrainian authorities to return Zunino to Italy.
The Italian newspaper said the presence of Russian snipers was making it hard to recover Bitik’s body.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Italian media that Russian forces were responsible for the killing.
“Russians don’t care if you’re Russian, Italian or Ukrainian, they just shoot,” he said.
Bitik is at least the 14th journalist killed in Ukraine while reporting on the Russian invasion, according to the CPJ.
A Russian court on Thursday fined the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, two million rubles ($24,510) for not deleting what it said was “banned content” related to the Russian military, Interfax reported.
It said this was the seventh fine imposed on Wikimedia in 2023 for not removing prohibited information. The fines now total 8.4 million rubles.
The latest penalty was for not removing an article about a military unit that contained “classified military information” about its location, composition and equipment, including
information related to the progress of what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
Wikimedia did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said information that Russian authorities complained about was well-sourced and in line with Wikipedia standards.
Wikipedia is one of the few surviving independent sources of information in Russian since a state crackdown on online content intensified after Moscow invaded Ukraine last year.
“We are not blocking Wikipedia yet, there are no such plans for now,” Interfax quoted digital affairs minister Maksut Shadaev as saying last week.
Russia said Thursday it is denying an upcoming consular visit to detained U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich in retaliation for an American refusal to issue visas to several Russian journalists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained last weekend that the United States had denied visas to Russian journalists set to travel with him to United Nations headquarters in New York.
In response, the Russian foreign ministry said Thursday, “The U.S. Embassy was informed that its request for a consular visit on May 11… to U.S. citizen Gershkovich, who was detained on charges of espionage, has been rejected.”
Moscow warned that “other potential retaliatory measures are being worked out.”
Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested last month while on a reporting assignment. Russia contends he was caught “red-handed” spying on a Russian military installation.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich in a Moscow jail and watched as he made a court appearance. But Russia is holding him while he awaits trial, rejecting U.S. protests that he is being illegally detained.
Російські снайпери 26 квітня вбили українського фіксера La Repubblica та поранили італійського журналіста
«Було побудовано ще 15 капітальних споруд, в тому числі фактично житлові будинки» – в. о. гендиректора
Єврейський поет Нафталі Герц Імбер народився у Золочеві у 1856 році
One dead, 23 wounded in Russian missile strike on Ukraine’s Mykolaiv – officials
NATO allies, partners have given 1,550 armored vehicles, 230 tanks to Ukraine: NATO Chief
Stoltenberg welcomes Xi’s call with Zelenskyy but says it doesn’t change the fact that China has still not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
British defense ministry says imagery shows that by March 2023, Russian forces had established sandbag fighting positions on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings at Zaporizhzhia
A Russian missile strike on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv early Thursday has killed one person and injured 23 others.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Telegram app, “At night, Russia bombarded Mykolaiv with four Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea.”
The strike damaged homes and an apartment building. Russia denies targeting civilians, saying it attacks military targets.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says Ukraine has received more than 98% of the combat vehicles promised by NATO allies and partners. The deliveries include 1,550 armored vehicles and 230 tanks.
Speaking Thursday at a news conference in Brussels, he said NATO has trained and equipped more than nine new Ukrainian armored brigades, putting “Ukraine in a strong position to continue to retake occupied territory.”
Stoltenberg also said he ‘welcomed’ the call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Zelenskyy, but that it did not change the fact that China had still not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said he had a “long and meaningful” phone call with Xi Wednesday, with the two men agreeing to send envoys to Beijing and Kyiv in a possible initial move to broker peace talks to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Zelenskyy, in a comment on Twitter, gave no details of his nearly hourlong conversation with Xi, his first known contact with the Chinese president since Russia’s invasion 14 months ago. Zelenskyy said, “I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.”
Later, on his website, he called the conversation productive and said it would lead the way toward “possible interaction with the aim of establishing a just and sustainable peace for Ukraine.”
Chinese state media reported that Xi appealed to Zelenskyy for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, warning, “There is no winner in a nuclear war.” He was apparently referring to the threat of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. Chinese state TV said Xi’s government would send a special representative to Ukraine for talks about a possible political settlement.
“Negotiation is the only viable way out,” state TV said in a report on Xi’s comments to Zelenskyy. “All parties concerned should remain calm and restrained in dealing with the nuclear issue and truly look at the future and destiny of themselves and humanity as a whole and work together to manage the crisis.”
China has attempted to appear neutral on the Russian invasion, in February proposing a cease-fire and peace talks. But Beijing has also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion or call for Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly said his government will not engage in peace talks until Moscow withdraws its troops from all of Ukraine. “There can be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises,” Zelenskyy said after his phone call with Xi.
Russia wants Kyiv to acknowledge Russia’s annexation of Crimea and last year’s declaration that the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia are part of Russia.
Russian recon aircraft over Baltic Sea
In Thursday’s update on the situation in Ukraine, the British defense ministry said imagery showed that by March 2023 Russian forces had established sandbag fighting position on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
In the Twitter post the ministry said “Russia has likely constructed these positions because it is increasingly concerned about the prospects of a major Ukrainian offensive.”
However, the ministry said, “direct catastrophic damage to the reactors in unlikely under most plausible scenarios involving infantry weapons because the structures are very heavily reinforced.”
Some material in this report came from Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
Москва «вітає все, що може наблизити закінчення конфлікту в Україні й досягнення цілей спецоперації (так у Росії офіційно називають війну)», – сказав речник Кремля
«У цьому є сенс військової операції – ніхто не повинен знати, що вона почалася»
From discussing nuclear war to belting out a beloved hit: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s White House visit ended on a high note when he sang Don McLean’s “American Pie” to great applause.
Yoon is on a six-day state visit to Washington, where he discussed with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday “the end” of any North Korean regime that used nuclear weapons against the allies.
But the two leaders had more cheerful topics on the agenda at the White House state dinner in Yoon’s honor later that day, with the South Korean leader — who is known at home to be something of a karaoke buff — sharing his love of American music.
“We know this is one of your favorite songs, ‘American Pie,'” Biden said to Yoon, having pulled him up onto the stage at the end of the evening to listen to singers perform the classic.
“Yes, that’s true,” the 62-year-old Yoon admitted, saying that he had loved the Don McLean song, released in 1971, since he was at school.
“We want to hear you sing it,” said Biden.
“It’s been a while but…” Yoon responded, offering only token resistance as he took the microphone.
Yoon belted out the first few lines of the song a cappella, triggering rapturous applause from the crowd and delighting Biden and the First Lady.
“The next state dinner we’re going to have, you’re looking at the entertainment,” Biden told the crowd, referring to Yoon.
Then he turned to the South Korean president and said: “I had no damn idea you could sing.”
Biden told Yoon that McLean could not be at the White House to join them but had sent a signed guitar, which the U.S. president gave to the South Korean leader.
“Yoon literally tore up the stage and White House!” one Twitter user wrote in Korean in reply to a video of the president singing.
“Yoon has revealed his hidden singing talent,” another commenter wrote, also in Korean, resharing the video.
It is not Yoon’s first time singing in public.
On the campaign trail in 2021, he appeared on the famous South Korean TV show “All the Butlers”, wowing its celebrity hosts with a sparkling rendition of the K-pop ballad “No One Else” by Lee Seung-chul.
Після президентських виборів 2020 року Віктора Бабарика засудили до 14 років позбавлення волі за звинуваченням в економічних злочинах
A U.S. Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified military documents has a history of making violent threats, used his government computer to research mass shootings, and tried to destroy evidence of his crimes, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
In a 48-page filing, the Justice Department said 21-year-old Jack Teixeira should be detained pending trial, saying his violent rhetoric coupled with his apparent efforts to destroy evidence “compound his risk of flight and dangerousness.”
Prosecutors will present their arguments in favor of detention to a U.S. magistrate judge in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Thursday afternoon.
Teixeira’s lawyers have not commented on the case and are expected to argue at Thursday’s hearing that he should not be detained pre-trial.
The filing, which also contained photos of the suspect’s bedroom from the FBI’s search of his home, said that in July of 2022 he used his government computer to look up famous mass shootings using search terms such as “Uvalde,” “Ruby Ridge” and “Las Vegas shooting.”
During the search at his home, the FBI found a smashed tablet computer, a laptop and a gaming console inside a dumpster. In addition, prosecutors said they had unearthed evidence that Teixeira instructed other online users to “delete all messages.”
Teixeira was charged earlier this month with one count of violating the Espionage Act related to the unlawful copying and transmitting of sensitive defense material, and a second charge related to the unlawful removal of defense material to an unauthorized location.
If convicted, prosecutors said, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
The leaked documents at the heart of the investigation are believed to be the most serious U.S. security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010. The Pentagon has called the leak a “deliberate, criminal act.”
Prosecutors said in their detention memo that Teixeira in February 2022 began accessing hundreds of classified documents not relevant to his job and started posting some of the classified information on social media around December 2022.
“The damage the defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary,” the memo says.
The classified documents provided a wide variety of highly classified information on allies and adversaries, with details ranging from Ukraine’s air defenses to Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Apart from the evidence that Teixeira tried to obstruct evidence and influence witnesses in the case, prosecutors said he has a troubled history dating back to his teenage years.
When he was 18, they said, his firearms identification card application was denied due to remarks he made while still in high school related to “weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats.”
He also made violent comments about murder on social media, including one post in November 2022 saying that if he could, he would “kill a ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded.”
On Feb. 10, 2023, Teixeira sought advice from a user about what type of rifle would be easy to operate from the back of a parked SUV against a “target on a sidewalk or porch,” according to the filing.
Prosecutors said they also found evidence that Teixeira admitted to others online that the information he was posting was classified.
In an exchange of chatroom messages included in the filing, Teixeira was asked whether the information he was posting was classified.
He responded: “Everything that ive been telling u guys up to this point has been.”
In Wednesday’s filing, prosecutors said: “There is no condition of release that can be set that will reasonably assure his future appearance at court proceedings or the safety of the community … He should be detained.”
The humanitarian suffering created by Russia’s war on Ukraine has been accompanied by an economic shock that resonates globally, driving up food and energy prices on distant continents. With Russia’s shelling of energy infrastructure and industrial plants, its destruction of cities, mining and agricultural sites, Ukraine lost a third of its economic output in 2022 as 8 million people fell into poverty — a 15-year setback in poverty reduction goals, according to World Bank data.
Even so, Ukraine’s government continues to function, making social and compensation payments, conducting emergency repairs of heating and electrical grids struck by Russian missiles in winter, keeping trains running and repairing bridges and roads. This was made possible by deliveries of international aid that amounted to some $32 billion in 2022.
Ukraine’s government estimates another $40 billion will be needed this year, and the support appears to be in place. Earlier this month, dozens of finance ministers and central bankers gathered in Washington for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings, where donors pledged $115 billion over four years to help Ukraine maintain economic stability during the “exceptional and highly uncertain environment of a country fighting a war.”
Alfred Kammer, director of the IMF’s European Department, told VOA the program also aims to “galvanize donors,” which can provide Ukraine with the reliable “expectation that these funds will be coming.”
Kammer also hailed the new program for what he described as enhanced donor coordination — a promising improvement over last year’s disbursement efforts that, absent a formal program, resulted in chronic delays.
“Absence of an overarching framework made it difficult for donors in terms of disbursing [funds], that made it difficult for Ukrainian policymakers in terms of implementing policies, because there was always some uncertainty when money would be coming,” said Kammer.
Those delays in aid delivery forced Ukraine to print money in 2022, risking inflation and gambling with the independence of the central bank, the National Bank of Ukraine.
Ukrainian central bank chief Andriy Pyshnyi also praised the new donor program, calling it a “real life representation of [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden’s words that Ukraine will have the support that it needs.”
But because part of Russia’s war on Ukraine is a campaign of economic attrition, aid alone may not be enough.
During an Atlantic Council roundtable on Ukrainian reconstruction held earlier this year, University of Virginia historian Philip Zelikow said the West’s macroeconomic stabilization efforts are something akin to medical first aid.
“All we are doing with billions per month is keeping the patient alive in the ER,” said Zelikow, who called for a coordinated restructuring package to “give Ukrainians hope that they will come out of this.”
World Bank estimates for the cost of Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction have reached a staggering $411 billion. Ukraine hopes to have Russia pay for the damage it has inflicted — a position shared by allies — in part via confiscation of some $300 billion in Russian central bank assets that were frozen by Western governments after the 2022 invasion.
The U.S. Treasury’s multinational REPO (Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs) Task Force, founded in March 2022, recently announced that it has blocked or frozen more than $58 billion in sanctioned assets held by Russian oligarchs.
Once audits of the REPO seizures are complete, Pishnyi said, he’s hopeful the proceeds can be sent to Ukraine in the form of reparations. The fact that the audits are underway, he said, has finally allowed officials to move from conceptual dialogue about reparations to discussion of specific numbers.
Also founded in March 2022, Task Force KleptoCapture, a U.S. Department of Justice unit set up to enforce sweeping U.S. sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia, has seized more than $500 million in assets owned by Russian oligarchs and others who support Moscow and dodge U.S. sanctions and export controls. On April 19, the U.S. law enforcement agency formally began pressing Congress for additional authority to funnel proceeds from those seizures to Ukraine.
Although Ukraine has taken steps to jumpstart foreign direct investment, recently announcing plans to provide state guarantees to revitalize its export credit agency — 70% of Ukraine’s pre-war GDP drew from the private sector — some private companies are reluctant to invest amid the warfare.
But Rana Karadsheh, Central and Eastern Europe director of the World Bank-affiliated International Finance Corporation (IFC), told VOA that her organization, along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has programs designed to alleviate some of the inherent risk.
“There is a lot of interest [and] a little bit of natural concern about the risky environment,” she told VOA, “but I’ve been quite impressed at the level of support that we’re seeing, as we talk to companies … across the region.”
The IFC recently announced a $2 billion support package for Ukraine’s private sector — a program designed to entice private investors — while the EBRD is looking at investing $1.3 billion for emergency repairs of electrical and rail networks.
“[EBRD’s priority] is to focus on making life as bearable as possible for people,” the European development bank’s chief economist, Beata Javorcik, told VOA. “So that when the time for reconstruction comes, people will be there, human capital will be there.”
Ukraine, says Javorcik, is well positioned for post-war recovery.
“Money is obviously needed, but Ukraine has many friends abroad, so funds will be flowing,” she told VOA. “The second thing that’s needed is improvement in institutions in the quality of governance. And here, again, I’m optimistic because the accession process to the European Union can provide an anchor for the reforms and give the direction of the reforms.
“The third component, stable peace, is the most challenging precondition to achieve,” she added.
EBRD research drawn from more 200 cases of post-war recovery says Ukraine’s could take up to 25 years, though Kyiv hopes its reconstruction, and the return to normalcy that comes with it, will come much sooner.
“This generation should not be lost,” says Pyshnyi of Ukraine’s central bank, adding that he’s eager to see Ukraine become the “largest building site in Europe, if not in the world.”
This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian Service. Some information is from Reuters.
Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said Wednesday that he was facing new extremism and terrorism charges that could keep him behind bars for life, as authorities set the stage for a new trial against the Kremlin’s leading critic.
Navalny said by video link from prison during the hearing that the extremism charges which he rejected as “absurd” could land him in prison for 30 years. He noted that an investigator had told him he also would face a separate military court trial on terrorism charges that could potentially carry a life sentence, adding on a sardonic note that the charges imply that “I’m conducting terror attacks while sitting in prison.”
His top ally Ivan Zhdanov said investigators were trying to link the terrorism charges against Navalny to a bombing that killed a well-known Russian military blogger earlier this month.
Navalny, 46, who exposed official corruption and organized massive anti-Kremlin protests, was arrested in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.
He initially received a 2½-year prison sentence for a parole violation. Last year, he was sentenced to a nine-year term for fraud and contempt of court. He is currently serving time at a maximum-security prison 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Moscow.
The new charges against Navalny relate to the activities of his anti-corruption foundation and statements by his top associates. His ally Leonid Volkov said the accusations retroactively criminalize all the activities of Navalny’s foundation since its creation in 2011 and carry a potential punishment of up to 35 years in prison.
Navalny’s associate, Zhdanov, said Wednesday that investigators were revising the charges to link them to a bombing that killed Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky at a St. Petersburg cafe earlier this month. The authorities described Darya Trepova, a 26-year-old St. Petersburg resident who was seen on video presenting Tatarsky with a statuette moments before the blast, as an active supporter of Navalny. They also accused Zhdanov and Volkov of making repeated calls for subversive activities in Russia.
An investigator told the court Wednesday that 11 other suspects facing extremism charges alongside Navalny have remained at large and have been put on an international wanted list.
The new charges come as Russian authorities conduct an intensifying crackdown on dissent amid the fighting in Ukraine, which Navalny has harshly criticized.
Wednesday’s hearing at Moscow’s Basmanny District Court was held to discuss preparations for Navalny’s trial on the extremism charges. Navalny asked for more time to study the 196 case files.
The judge closed the session minutes after it opened, ruling that it should be held behind closed doors, because the case involved sensitive information.
“It’s an attempt to unlawfully restrict my ability to study the materials of the case and prevent anyone from knowing about it,” Navalny said before public access to the hearing ended.
The hearing ended with the judge giving Navalny 10 days to study his criminal case. No date for the trial has been set yet.
Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent foe, has rejected the charges as a political vendetta and an attempt by Russian authorities to keep him out of politics for as long as possible.
His associates and supporters have become increasingly worried about his failing health. Earlier this month, they said Navalny had fallen ill with acute stomach pains and suspected that he was being slowly poisoned.
Navalny looked gaunt when he appeared via video link from prison, but he smiled and laughed as he warmly greeted journalists who were watching his appearance in court.
While imprisoned, Navalny has spent months in a tiny one-person cell, also called a “punishment cell,” for purported disciplinary violations such as an alleged failure to properly button his prison robe, properly introduce himself to a guard or to wash his face at a specified time.
His supporters have accused prison authorities of failing to provide him with proper medical assistance, using blindingly bright light in his cell and placing him next to a mentally unstable person.
Navalny said Tuesday that he had completed a 15-day stay in the punishment cell and was immediately ordered to spend another 15 days there.
The Russian authorities have ramped up their crackdown on dissent after Putin sent troops into Ukraine under new legislation that has effectively criminalized any public criticism of Moscow’s military action and independent reporting on the conflict.
Earlier this month, a Russian court convicted a top opposition figure, Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., of treason for publicly denouncing Moscow’s war in Ukraine. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Another prominent opposition figure, Ilya Yashin, was sentenced to 8½ years in prison last year on charges of spreading false information about the military.
On Wednesday, a court in Yekaterinburg opened a trial of the city’s former mayor, Yevgeny Roizman, on charges of discrediting the military that he rejected.
Roizman, a sharp critic of the Kremlin, is one of the most visible and charismatic opposition figures in Russia who enjoyed broad popularity as mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city of 1.5 million people in the Ural Mountains.
Last month, Roizman, 60, was ordered to spend 14 days in custody on separate charges of reposting material containing a reference to Navalny’s organization.
As part of a relentless clampdown, a Russian court last month convicted a father over social media posts critical of the war and sentenced him to two years in prison. His 13-year-old daughter, who drew an antiwar sketch at school, was sent to an orphanage.
On March 29, Russia’s security service also arrested Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal, on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government have rejected. Gershkovich is the first U.S. correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying charges, and his arrest rattled journalists in the country and drew outrage in the West.