Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader and Putin critic, sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison

Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

Mr Navalny, 44, was jailed at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow over allegations he violated the conditions of a suspended sentence he received in 2014 for money laundering.

He has already spent 11 months under house arrest, so will therefore be in prison for two years and eight months, his lawyer said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the sentence a “perverse ruling”.

He added: “The UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexey Navalny and all of the peaceful protesters and journalists arrested over the last two weeks.

“Today’s perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called for Mr Navalny’s release.

In a statement he added: “We will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said his detention was “unacceptable”, while Lithuania has called on the EU to pass sanctions on Russia.

As the order was read, Mr Navalny pointed to his wife Yulia in the courtroom and traced the outline of a heart on the glass cage where he was being held.

Lawyers for Mr Navalny say he plans to appeal the court’s decision.

More than 300 protesters were arrested for gathering outside court to demand his release, as thousands have done across Russia over the past two weeks in the largest show of defiance against President Vladimir Putin in years.

Before the sentencing, he told the judge: “You can’t put the whole country in jail. The aim of this hearing is to scare a great number of people. They jail one man to scare millions.”

He said he had “insulted the old man in the bunker”, in reference to Mr Putin, “by surviving” the Novichok poisoning that nearly killed him.

“He will go down in history as the poisoner. I demand my release,” he added.

Mr Navalny also praised Yulia, who was fined for taking part in protests yesterday.

“They said that you had seriously violated public order and were a bad girl. I’m proud of you,” he said from inside a glass pod.

He was arrested and detained on 17 January as he landed back in Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from being poisoned by a nerve agent.

His lawyers argued he was unable to register with probation services in person while he was recuperating in Germany.

Mr Navalny’s team maintains the Kremlin ordered his murder, a claim it denies. Mr Putin in turn alleges that Mr Navalny is working for the CIA, a charge he rejects.

A statement from the Kremlin on Tuesday said Mr Putin was not following the Navalny hearing and was instead preparing for a meeting with Russian teachers.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson also hit out at the 20 foreign diplomats who attended the hearing, which they said “isn’t just meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, but the self-incrimination of the West’s unsightly and illegal attempts to contain Russia”.

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