Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny will serve two-and-a-half years in jail, a court ruled on Tuesday, two weeks after he returned to Moscow in the wake of a nerve agent poisioning.
Navalny was airlifted to Germany in August after being poisoned with a substance similar to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. No investigation has been conducted into the poisoning, however Navalny reportedly duped an FSB agent into revealing that he had placed the nerve agent in Navalny’s underpants.
After recovering, Navalny returned to Russia and was arrested immediately upon arrival. The arrest sparked unusually widespread protests in Russia, with tens of thousands demonstrating in support of Navalny and against state corruption.
Navalny excoriated the court and Russian president Vladimir Putin in remarks on Tuesday.
“This is his only method—to kill people. No matter how much he pretends to be a great geopolitician, he’ll go into history as a poisoner,” Navalny said of Putin. “There was Aleksander the Liberator, Yaroslav the Wise, and Vladimir the Poisoner of Underpants.”
Navalny was handed a 3.5 year suspended sentence in 2014 after being found guilty of corruption. The European High Court of Human Rights later condemned the case against Navalny, saying the case was politically motivated and lacked evidence.
In the courtroom on Tuesday was Navalny’s wife Yulia, who was briefly detained at a protest on Sunday. Navalny joked to Yulia, “I saw you on TV in my cell. They say that you are constantly violating public order. Bad girl! But I’m proud of you.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the jail sentence.
“The United States is deeply concerned by Russia’s actions toward Aleksey Navalny,” Blinken wrote on Twitter. “We reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release as well as the release of all those wrongfully detained for exercising their rights.”