On Monday, Russian authorities sentenced an associate of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to nine years in prison for “participating in an extremist organization,” as reported by Navalny’s team on Telegram.
Vadim Ostanin was head of Navalny’s office in the Siberian city of Barnaul and was detained in December 2021. He was also charged with belonging to a nonprofit that “infringes on citizens’ rights.”
According to Navalny’s team, Ostanin had carried out “legal political work.”
Ostanin’s conviction is part of a wider crackdown on political opposition in Russia. This has intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Navalny is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was arrested in January 2021 after returning to Russia from Germany where he had been recovering from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin.
Russia cracks down Putin’s political opponents
As Russian authorities continue to go after Putin’s critics, many of Navalny’s political allies have either fled into exile or been arrested. Moscow banned Navalny’s political organizations in 2021.
Recently, Lilia Chanysheva, another Navalny ally from Ufa in central Russia, was sentenced to over seven years in prison on similar charges.
Ostanin had described the squalid conditions of his prison cell as “six square meters in a basement with a window covered with debris” that would flood and was full of rats and spiders.
Navalny is currently incarcerated in a maximum security prison outside Moscow on several charges including fraud and contempt of court. Last week, prosecutors requested an additional 20-year term on “extremism” charges.
Navalny maintains that the charges and his lengthy prison sentences are an attempt to silence Russia’s political opposition.
In a statement released Thursday by his legal team, Navalny said: “Anyone in Russia knows that a person who seeks justice in a court of law is completely vulnerable. The case of that person is hopeless.”