What does Navalny's jail sentence mean?
A Moscow court has sentenced Alexei Navalny to two years and eight months in a prison colony for violating parole from a 2014 sentence. The European Court of Human Rights had already ruled that Navalny's 2014 conviction was "arbitrary" in 2017. Europe's press sees Russia increasingly isolating itself with this verdict that was clearly politically motivated - and examines what can be done to help Navalny now.
A hero on the only remaining stage
Echo of Moscow is impressed by Navalny's feisty closing words:
“If you have no opportunity to take part in elections or speak in parliament, if you're not allowed to demonstrate peacefully to express your feelings and opinions, and if you don't have access to state TV channels, then the courtroom is the only stage that remains. ... This trial was one million percent political. And that's why Navalny's speech was too. He uses every opportunity he gets to go all out in his attacks against Putin, because he's not counting on any lenience or mercy. ... Navalny deserves great respect for this, because courage and bravery are on the red list in our country.”
Officially downgraded to a dictatorship
Russia is provoking the final break with the West, fears former Moscow correspondent Anna Zafesova in La Stampa:
“The West is demanding Navalny's 'unconditional and immediate' release and sees him as a political prisoner. In other words, it is no longer even considering taking the Russian judiciary, its motives or its procedures seriously. ... Russia has been downgraded from an 'incomplete democracy' and 'transitional regime', in other words a hybrid system with which one can enter into dialogue, to a dictatorship that must be condemned 'in the strongest possible terms', as von der Leyen stresses - and subjected to pressure. Moscow has not only accepted this risk, but has even accelerated the process. In the last two weeks it has shown that it has given up its final scruples about maintaining a semblance of civil relations with the West.”
A pathetic show trial
Russia has become disconnected from the rest of the world, Helsingin Sanomat points out:
“These proceedings were a show trial in the best and the worst sense. There were two days left of the six-year suspended sentence in December, when the authorities officially asked Navalny to check in. Apart from them, the whole world seemed to know where Navalny was. ... How did Tuesday's events differ from the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s? Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow radio station, noted that Stalin sent invitations and free passes to foreign representatives. By contrast, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Maria Zakharova, press director at the Foreign Ministry, insulted EU countries that had dared to send diplomats into the courtroom. Putin's Russia has drifted into a universe of its own.”
The pressure on Russia should be well coordinated if it is to achieve the desired effect, advises El País:
“One must insist on freedom and physical integrity for Navalny, who has stressed that he has no intention of committing suicide. The West must show its support intelligently, without exposing Navalny to accusations of being an occidentophile, and it must close ranks to ensure that its pressure on the Kremlin is more effective. This week's visit to Moscow by the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell offers a good opportunity. He should request a meeting with the convicted opposition leader.”