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Aide to jailed Russian leader Alexei Navalny: I'm 'very concerned' he will be killed

·Chief Investigative Correspondent
·3-min read
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A top aide to Alexei Navalny said Tuesday he is “very concerned” that the jailed Russian opposition leader will be assassinated after being sentenced in a Russian courtroom to nine more years in a maximum-security prison.

“There is nothing that could stop Russian security services from assassinating a person anywhere in the world, let alone in a Russian prison, which is a brutal place,” said Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, in an interview with the Yahoo News "Skullduggery" podcast.

Ashurkov denounced what he called the “bizarre” sentence of Navalny, which he said was handed down by a judge he described as “a puppet of somebody sitting in the Kremlin.” But he added that the harsh sentence was the latest in a series of brutal crackdowns of dissent by the Kremlin in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine. Ashurkov said this has stoked opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s government that could ultimately lead to his downfall.

Alexei Navalny, center, looking somber but resolute, and his wife Yulia, in wool hat, surrounded by demonstrators.
Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, center, and his wife Yulia, right, at a rally in Moscow in February 2019. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“This war, this aggression, I believe, will speed up the demise of Putin's regime,” said Ashurkov. Asked if he was calling for those in Putin’s inner circle to stage a coup, Ashurkov responded: “They don’t need my calling to determine it is in their interest to get rid of the maniac and start working toward a new Russia.”

Ashurkov spoke from London, where he now lives in exile, just hours after Navalny was forced to stand in court for hours as a judge detailed his conviction on charges of contempt of court and allegedly embezzling funds from the Anti-Corruption Foundation he founded. The organization has dedicated itself to exposing the corruption of various Russian oligarchs, political leaders and Putin himself.

Ashurkov, who runs the foundation, noted that Navalny was convicted of embezzling the funds despite the fact that “no bank records show he took anything from there, not even a salary.” The charges were first brought after Navalny returned from Germany, where he was being treated for being poisoned, and came after the foundation revealed details of a giant, billion-dollar palace allegedly built for Putin on the Black Sea.

Navalny's sentence came just days after he spoke out in court against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it “crazy” and saying it would lead to the “disintegration of the country.”

Alexei Navalny stands behind a desk with his hands in his pockets, with a woman and a man to his left, also standing, who are reviewing documents,
Navalny appears in a video link on Tuesday at the verdict in his trial for embezzlement and contempt of court. (-/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is the duty of every person now to fight this war,” Navalny said.

After his conviction, Navalny maintained his often wry defiance of Putin’s government, tweeting, “9 years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series ‘The Wire’ used to say: ‘You only do two days. That's the day you go in and the day you come out.’ I even had a T-shirt with this slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist.”

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