Russia Sends Navalny Associates to Prison for “Extremism”

Two allies of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, were sentenced to years in prison on Wednesday, in a sign of an escalating crackdown on dissent in the country.

Lilia Chanysheva, the head of Mr. Navalny’s office in the central Bashkortostan region, and her former colleague, Rustem Mulyukov, are the first of Mr. Navalny’s team to be convicted of charges related to national security since the Russian government declared his grass-roots anti-corruption group an “extremist organization” in 2021.

Mr. Navalny himself, who has been jailed since 2021 for fraud and contempt of court, is on trial for similar charges, in a case that is widely expected to significantly extend his nine-year prison term.

A court in the city of Ufa sentenced Ms. Chanysheva to seven and a half years in prison for participating in “an extremist organization.” Mr. Mulyukov received two and a half years for similar charges.

About 15 other people who have been affiliated with Mr. Navalny’s organization are on trial, according to Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman.

Moscow has put pressure on Mr. Navalny’s supporters for years, but the situation escalated in 2020, when he was poisoned in what he said was an attempt by the Kremlin to murder him. The Russian authorities denied involvement despite evidence collected by Mr. Navalny’s team. President Vladimir V. Putin’s government outlawed Mr. Navalny’s organization soon after the opposition leader returned to Russia after recovering in Germany.

Ms. Chanysheva, 41, was among the few prominent members of Mr. Navalny’s team to remain in Russia. She was detained in late 2021.

In a brief speech after the sentencing, Ms. Chanysheva was visibly emotional, expressing gratitude to supporters and urging them to continue writing her letters in prison.

“I would not exist without you,” she said, according to a video posted on social media by an exiled aide of Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov.

Ms. Chanysheva’s husband, Almaz Gatin, said public support for her case had been growing since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He said the courthouse was full during her sentencing on Wednesday.

“Lilia, her inner light and strength, give hope and a bridge to the future,” Mr. Gatin said by telephone from Ufa.

Alina Lobzina and Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting.

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