Kremlin Critic Navalny Defiant but Gaunt After Ending Hunger Strike

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “naked, thieving king” on Thursday, looking gaunt but defiant in a courtroom video link from prison, his first public appearance since ending a hunger strike last week, Reuters reported.

Navalny’s comments were piped into a hearing in a Moscow courtroom, where he lost his appeal against a fine for defaming a World War Two veteran.

He faces further legal pressure, with his team saying he was hit with new criminal charges. Allies were forced to disband his network of regional campaign offices, which the authorities are seeking to ban as “extremist”.

His head shaven, Navalny said he had been taken to a bathhouse to look “decent” before the court hearing. He undid his prison uniform to reveal a T-shirt that barely hid his thin torso.

“I looked in the mirror. Of course, I’m just a dreadful skeleton,” he said. One of his lawyers said he had lost 22 kg (nearly 50 pounds) since January.

Later in the hearing, Navalny, 44, went on the attack against Putin and the Russian justice system.

“I want to tell the dear court that your king is naked,” he said of Putin. “Your naked, thieving king wants to continue to rule until the end … Another 10 years will come, a stolen decade will come.”

Addressing his wife Julia, who was in court, he said he missed her and asked her to stand so that he could look at her.

Describing how he was gradually ending his more than three-week hunger strike, he said he had eaten four spoonfuls of porridge on Wednesday. Requests for carrots and apples had not yet been granted.

Navalny is serving a 2-1/2 year jail sentence for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction that he says was politically motivated.

He declared his hunger strike on March 31 to demand better medical care for leg and back pain. On April 23 he said he would start eating again after getting more medical care. Russia has said he is receiving the same treatment as any other prisoner and accused him of exaggerating his health needs for publicity. 

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