Russian opposition leader and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, appeared in court on Thursday looking thin after recently ending his hunger strike that lasted around 24 days.
Navalny was sentenced to prison after returning to Moscow from Germany where he was undergoing treatment for poisoning from a nerve agent that he blames on the Kremlin. The Kremlin has denied any responsibility for his poisoning, but United States intelligence officials have “concluded with high confidence that Navalny was poisoned last year with a banned nerve agent called Novichok by the Russian security services,” according to Politico.
The Thursday court hearing was for the politician’s appeal of a conviction in February on charges of defaming a Russian World War II veteran, according to CBS News. He was convicted by a court in Moscow for slander shortly after the same court upheld his prison sentencing based on different parole violation charges.
Navalny had a shaved head and looked to be underweight on Thursday. He told the court, including his wife who was present, “I am just a horrible skeleton.” He said his weight had dropped to around 159 pounds, stating that he hadn’t weighed that much since around the seventh grade.
Navalny added that he had asked for some carrots and apples from the prison in order to aid his recovery from the hunger strike, but he hadn’t been given any.
CNN reported that Navalny said he ate “four tablespoons of porridge a day, today five, tomorrow I will eat six.”
Speaking of Putin, he said, “I would like to say that your king is naked, and more than one little boy is shouting about it — it is now millions of people who are already shouting about it. It is quite obvious. Twenty years of incompetent rule have come to this: there is a crown sliding from his ears.”
“Your naked king wants to rule until the end, he doesn’t care about the country, he is clung to power and wants to rule indefinitely,” he said.
Last week, more than a thousand protesters were arrested in Russia after demonstrations were held across the country to support Navalny and speak out against Putin, NPR reported.
Navalny also spoke to the prosecutors who were present on Thursday, saying, “You are all traitors. You and the naked king are implementing a plan to seize Russia, and the Russians should be turned into slaves. Their wealth will be taken away from them, they will be deprived of any prospects, you have implemented that plan.”
The court dismissed Navalny’s appeal against the conviction of defamation, per CBS News.
Navalny’s anti-corruption organization recently disbanded prior to a court’s ruling that is trying to label it as an “extremist” organization, Navalny’s senior ally Leonid Volkov said Thursday. The ruling is assumed to put all members and backers of the group in danger of up to six years in prison.
Earlier this week, a different “Russian court barred Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation (FBK) and his network of regional campaign offices from posting online. The organizations are also prohibited from accessing their bank accounts,” as reported by CBS News.
Navalny’s associate Vladimir Ashurkov, the foundation’s former director, lives in exile outside the country. Ashurkov told CBS News that he thought the Kremlin was taking such an intense step against the organization “because over the years, Navalny and our organization emerged as the most important opponent to Vladimir Putin.”
Navalny’s advocates also said on Thursday that Russian officials had started another criminal case against Navalny and two of his main associates. The case accuses him of allegedly creating a non-profit organization that “infringed on the personality and the rights of citizens.”
His team pointed to legal documents that said the case was opened in February. The charges hold a maximum sentence of up to four years in jail.