A thin-looking Alexei Navalny has appeared in public for the first time since he ended his hunger strike – describing himself as ‘just an awful skeleton’.
The Russian opposition leader appeared in a Moscow court via video link on Thursday, telling his wife he had eaten ‘five tablespoons of porridge’ as he starts eating food after a three-week hunger strike.
The 44-year-old looked skinny and gaunt in his standard issue prison jumpsuit as he sat in front of a camera in a plain room for an appeal hearing for a conviction for defamation.
Speaking to his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, he said he had been taken to the bathhouse to make sure he looked ‘decent’ for the hearing. He also lashed out at Putin, calling him a ‘naked king’ and slamming the president’s ’20 years of mediocre reign’.
‘Yesterday, I was taken to the bathhouse, there is a mirror. I looked at myself’, he said, ‘I’m just an awful skeleton.
‘Last time I weighed 72kg (11st 4lbs), I was probably in the seventh grade. If I had taken off my tunic, I would have looked much worse.’
His lawyer said he weighed 94kg (14st 8lbs) in January, when he returned to Russia from Germany.
Navalny told his wife he had eaten ‘four tablespoons of porridge a day, today five’, adding ‘tomorrow I will eat six.’
‘When I get to 10 spoons, it will be a breakthrough. To get 60 grams of raw carrots, I wrote a petition, they are still considering it.’
Navalny went on hunger strike on March 31 to demand medical care while in prison, he ended the protest on April 23 after he was seen by a doctor.
A thin-looking Alexei Navalny has appeared in the public for the first time since he ended his hunger strike on Friday. The Putin foe appeared on video link at Moscow’s Babushkinsky district court today (pictured)
Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya (pictured) also attended the court for a hearing to consider an appeal against an earlier decision that found the Russian opposition leader guilty of slander
Navalny (pictured here on February 20) was appearing in court for an appeal hearing for defamation charges after he allegedly called World War Two veteran who appeared in a pro-Putin video ‘a traitor and corrupt lackey’
Navalny was put on trial in February for allegedly calling a 94-year-old World War Two veteran who appeared in a pro-Putin video ‘a traitor and corrupt lackey’.
The video promoted changes to Russia‘s constitution that allowed Putin to remain leader for life.
Navalny has denounced the Russian judicial system over bringing the charges – which he denies.
He told the court on Thursday, ‘My dear court, your king is naked, and millions of people are shouting about it because it is quite obvious’, likening Putin to the title character in the children’s tale ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
The 44-year-old opposition leader went on to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said: ‘Twenty years of mediocre reign resulted in the crown hanging from his ears.
‘We have spent trillions of dollars, and our country continues to degrade. Unsurprisingly, all economists of Russian origin say that recent years are lost decades.’
Navalny added: ‘The lost decades will be replaced by the stolen decades. And the naked king can do nothing.’
The opposition leader also warned the judge not to interrupt him calling her, and the prosecutors in the room, ‘traitors’.
‘You are all traitors’, he said. ‘You and the naked king are implementing a plan to seize Russia, and the Russians should be turned into slaves. Their wealth will be taken away from them, they will be deprived of any prospects, you have implemented that plan.’
Speaking to his wife Yulia Navalnaya, the Putin foe (pictured looking gaunt on court video link today) said he had been taken to the bathhouse to make sure he looked ‘decent’ for the hearing
Navalny appeared via video link (pictured) on Thursday for an appeal hearing over a February defamation trial for allegedly calling a 94-year-old World War Two veteran who appeared in a pro-Putin video ‘a traitor and corrupt lackey’
The Kremlin critic’s appearance comes after his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) campaign was forced to disband its offices and authorities seek to declare the group an extremist organisation.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office petitioned a court this month to declare both the regional offices and Navalny’s anti-corruption organization as extremist groups.
The label would outlaw their activities, expose members and supporters to lengthy prison terms, and pose a major challenge for Navalny’s embattled team.
Leonid Volkov, who as Navalny’s top strategist runs the regional offices, said on Thursday that preserving the network in its current state ‘is impossible’ because of the extremism charges but rebranding them wouldn’t help either.
‘Unfortunately, it is impossible to work in these conditions. We’re officially dismantling the network of Navalny’s headquarters,’ Volkov said on the messaging app Telegram.
Volkov’s statement comes amid a sweeping crackdown on Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic, and his organizations.
The politician is currently in prison, and dozens of his aides and associates have been under arrest, targeted for raids by law enforcement, or facing criminal charges.
Leonid Volkov, who as Navalny’s top strategist runs the regional offices, said on Thursday that the campaign’s offices would be disbanded
Yulia Navalnaya attended court on Thursday in support for her husband who is appealing a conviction for slander
The hearing, which was attended by Navalny’s lawyers Olga Mickailova (left) and Vadim Kobzev (right), comes as the opposition’s campaign offices were disbanded
Earlier this week, the prosecutor’s office issued an injunction ordering the offices to suspend their activities pending the court ruling, and a court in Moscow imposed restrictions on the Anti-Corruption Foundation.
The foundation’s director, Ivan Zhdanov, said the organization will continue to work despite the restrictions.
Navalny set up a network of offices in dozens of regions when he was campaigning to run against Putin in the 2018 presidential election. He eventually was barred from running but kept the infrastructure in place.
The regional ‘headquarters,’ as the team called them, began their own investigations of graft by local officials and recruited activists, some of whom later ran for public office themselves.
The offices also were instrumental in organizing nationwide rallies in support of Navalny this year.
The offices also were instrumental in organizing nationwide rallies in support of Navalny this year
Navalny’s arrest fuelled a series of protests (such as this one in St Petersburg in February) that drew tens of thousands to the streets across Russia and condemnation by Western states
In his statement, Volkov assured supporters that Navalny’s team wasn’t giving up.
‘The networks of Navalny’s headquarters doesn’t exist anymore, but there are dozens of strong and tough regional politicians, thousands of his supporters, there are strong and independent political organizations which will work on investigations and elections, public campaigns and rallies. You will help them, and they will succeed,’ Volkov said.
Navalny was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin – accusations that Russian officials reject.
Navalny, pictured with his wife and children, spent five months in hospital in Germany where he was receiving treatment for a nerve agent poisoning before returning to Russia in January
His arrest triggered protests across Russia that proved to be the biggest show of defiance in years. But they didn’t stop authorities from putting Navalny on trial for violating the terms of a suspended sentence while he was in Germany.
The sentence stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has characterized as politically motivated.
He was ordered to serve two and a half years in prison and last month was transferred to a penal colony notorious for its harsh conditions.
Some of his top allies were slapped with criminal charges and placed under house arrest, and dozens of his associates in the regions were targeted with detentions and raids.
The 44-year-old is serving two-and-a-half years in a penal colony for violating parole terms on old fraud charges he says are politically motivated. He was transferred to the IK-3 unit (pictured) for medical treatment after doctors warned he was near death over hunger strike