Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny attends a hearing to consider an appeal against an earlier court decision to change his suspended sentence to a real prison term, in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2021.
Despite dismissing the appeal, the judge did reduce Navalny's three-year sentence in a penal colony by six weeks, per The BBC.
State media has used the case to depict Navalny as a traitor, while Navalny himself has used his court appearances to trash the Russian authorities and legal system.
The Kremlin's most prominent opponent Alexei Navalny faced two court decisions on Saturday that could seal a judge's ruling to jail him for several years, after he returned to Russian Federation following a poisoning attack.
Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption crusader and Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic, was arrested on January 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
The arrest sparked large protests across the county that saw more than 10,000 people detained, while the European Union threatened to impose new sanctions on Russian Federation. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days. "The main thing I want to say is don't be afraid", he said, in a speech that cited the Bible, the Harry Potter series and sci-fi cartoon series Rick and Morty.
"The government's task is to scare you and then persuade you that you are alone", he said.
"To live is to risk it all". "Imagine how great it would be to work as a judge when no one would be able to call you and give you directions what verdicts to issue". These required him to report regularly to Russian police; however, he was unable to do so when recovering in Germany.
"The whole question is, was I hiding or not hiding?" he told the court. "And sooner or later they'll get it", he said.
Russian Federation has rejected Western criticism of Navalny's arrest and the crackdown on demonstrations as meddling in its internal affairs.
Navalny's allies believe Russia's non-compliance with the European Court of Human Rights ruling could lead to its expulsion from the Council of Europe - a broader grouping than the 27-member EU. The Strasbourg-based court noted that Navalny has contested Russian authorities' argument that they had taken sufficient measures to safeguard his life and well-being in custody following the nerve agent attack.
The opposition activist faces a fine of 950,000 rubles ($13,000) in a separate case later on Saturday.
Asked about the impact of Navalny's prison sentence on Russia's politics, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the country's "rich and multifaceted" political scene will develop regardless of the verdict.
On February 16, the European court of human rights (ECHR) ruled that Russian Federation risked breaching the European Convention on Human Rights if it did not release Navalny immediately, according to Bloomberg.
In a sign of its long-held annoyance with the Strasbourg court's verdicts, Russian Federation previous year adopted a constitutional amendment declaring the priority of national legislation over worldwide law.
But he has said his comments were not specifically directed against the veteran, and that the authorities are using the charge to smear his reputation.
In the slander case, Mr Navalny has been accused of defaming a World War II veteran who took part in a promotional video backing constitutional reforms a year ago that let Mr Putin run for two more terms in the Kremlin after 2024 if he wants.
Supporters of the outspoken opposition figure say the rulings and several other cases against the 44-year-old are a pretext to silence his corruption exposes and quash his political ambitions.