Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny appeared in court Thursday with a shaved head and looking gaunt after his recent hunger strike — while still defiant as he ripped Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “naked, thieving king.”
“I want to tell the dear court that your king is naked,” Navalny said of Putin as he appeared in a Moscow court via video link from prison, where he is serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for parole violations.
“Your naked, thieving king wants to continue to rule until the end … Another 10 years will come, a stolen decade will come,” he said of Putin, whom he has accused of ordering the poisoning he survived last August.
Thursday’s hearing — a failed attempt to overturn an $11,500 fine previously given for defaming a World War II veteran — was the first time Navalny has been seen since losing almost 50 pounds during a 24-day hunger strike that ended last week.
“I was taken to a bathhouse yesterday … there was a mirror there, I looked at myself — I am just a horrible skeleton,” Navalny, 44, told the court, according to audio released by the independent Dozhd television channel.
He currently weighs 158 pounds, down from 207 pounds when he flew home in January from Germany, where he had recuperated from his near-fatal poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent last August.
“I haven’t weighed this much since seventh grade,” said Navalny, who also had a shaved head.
During a break in proceedings, Navalny asked his wife, Yulia, to stand up in court so he could see her. He told her he’s now eating several spoons of porridge each day — part of winding down his hunger strike.
His wife smiled and told Navalny the current weight “suits you better” than when she last saw him, weighing four pounds heavier.
He declared his hunger strike on March 31 to demand better medical care for leg and back pain, finally ending it last Friday after getting moved to a hospital for more medical care.
Navalny was in court Thursday to fight the fine given for slandering a 95-year-old war veteran by saying that a pro-Putin video he appeared in only featured “traitors” and “corrupt stooges.” The judge rejected his appeal Thursday.
Navalny has said the conviction — like his prison sentence for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction — is politically motivated.
One of his key allies also said Thursday that the politician’s offices in Russia were being closed as authorities seek to have the organization and Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption outlawed as extremist groups.
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to work in these conditions. We’re officially dismantling the network of Navalny’s headquarters,” said his main strategist, Leonid Volkov.
A large mural of Navalny on a building in St. Petersburg was painted over by Russian authorities Wednesday. Russian media said Thursday police were investigating, and those behind it could face up to three years in prison for vandalism.
With Post wires