The New York Times

Navalny’s Network is Disbanding, Citing Pressure From Putin

He returned to public view on Thursday for the first time since he began a hunger strike to demand better medical treatment. He ended the 24-day hunger strike last week. Speaking by video link to a Moscow courtroom, Mr. Navalny was appealing a February conviction for defamation of a World War II veteran that resulted in an $11,500 fine. The court denied the appeal. On the courtroom video screens, Mr. Navalny appeared gaunt, but as he talked over the judge’s attempts to interrupt his closing statement, his voice sounded nearly as forceful as it was in his dramatic courtroom appearances earlier this year.

Mr. Putin, he said, was trying to wrap himself in the glory of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II in order to justify his effort to stay in power.

“Your emperor with no clothes has stolen the banner of victory and is trying to fashion it into a thong for himself,” Mr. Navalny said, addressing the judge, according to audio recordings published by Russian news outlets. “All your authorities are occupiers and traitors.”

During a break in the proceeding, Mr. Navalny spoke with his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, over the video link in the courtroom. He told her that wardens had taken him to a sauna on Wednesday to improve his appearance before the public saw him. He told her he was gradually increasing the number of spoons of porridge he was consuming as he came out of his hunger strike.

“I’m just a horrible skeleton,” he said, describing what he saw when he looked in the mirror.

At a different Moscow courthouse on Thursday, Mr. Navalny’s lawyers arrived for a closed-door session in the extremism case against his organization. The evidence in the case has been ruled a state secret, but the opposition leader’s team said they learned that investigators had launched yet another criminal investigation against Mr. Navalny, Mr. Volkov and another top aide, Ivan Zhdanov.

The crime being investigated, the Russian state-run Tass news agency confirmed, was “the creation of a nonprofit organization infringing on the privacy and rights of citizens.”

Mr. Volkov, a former software-company executive who ran Mr. Navalny’s nationwide network of regional offices, said that not all of them would close. Others, he predicted, would transform into independent political entities engaged in local politics.

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