Navalny network disbands as gaunt Kremlin critic appears in court

Alexei Navalny’s political network said Thursday it is disbanding, as the jailed Kremlin critic appeared in court, gaunt and shaven headed, for the first time since ending his hunger strike.

During the hearing, which is part of an appeal by Navalny against a defamation sentence imposed in February for insulting a World War II veteran, the opposition figure said he had lost more weight but had started eating again. 

“I haven’t weighed this much since seventh grade,” he added, telling his wife Yulia who was in court that he is now allowed a couple spoonfuls of porridge a day.

If the request is met, their activities would be banned, putting members and supporters at risk of lengthy jail time. The hearings are set to resume on May 17.

“We are officially disbanding Navalny’s network,” Leonid Volkov said in a video posted on social media.

Earlier this week, prosecutors ordered the network to suspend its activities ahead of the ruling and a court imposed sweeping bans on FBK.

FBK was launched in 2011 and routinely releases investigations into alleged corruption by officials at all levels of government, often accompanied by YouTube videos.

It later supported his graft investigations as well as the Smart Voting strategy, which directs voters to cast their ballots for candidates best placed to defeat Kremlin-linked opponents.

Authorities have increased pressure against Navalny’s supporters since his return, with many top aides having left the country or been placed under house arrest.

They are accused of creating an organisation “infringing upon the liberties and rights of individuals”, an offence punishable by up to four years in jail. 

The opposition figure refused food for three weeks, demanding adequate medical treatment in prison for severe back pain and numbness in his limbs.

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