Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny lost his appeal against what he said was a politically motivated decision to jail him for nearly three years.
Navalny, who is one of President Putin’s fiercest critics, said his faith in God and belief in the rightness of his cause was sustaining him.
Navalny was jailed earlier this month for parole violations that he said were trumped up. Western countries have condemned the case and are discussing possible sanctions on Russia.
He was arrested on his return to Russia from Berlin, where he was recovering from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.
A Moscow court rejected Navalny’s appeal today, while shortening his original jail term by six weeks. The original term was 3-1/2 years.
But with the amount of time he had already spent under house arrest taken into account, it amounted to around two years and eight months.
His lawyer said on Saturday he would now spend a little over 2-1/2 years behind bars and that his legal team would try to challenge the decision to reject his appeal.
Navalny responded sarcastically to the ruling, which paves the way for him to be transferred from an infamous Moscow jail to a prison camp. “They’ve reduced the sentence by 1-1/2 months. Great!” he said from a courtroom glass cage.
Reaction prompts anger
“The court decision to keep Alexei in jail says only one thing. There is no law in Russia right now,” staff at Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, who investigate alleged official corruption, wrote on Twitter.
Navalny, 44, had earlier told the judge he was not guilty of parole violations as a previous court had found.
He said he had been unable to report to the Moscow prison service last year because he had been convalescing in Germany at the time.
“I don’t want to show off a lot, but the whole world knew where I was,” Navalny told the judge.
He said he had no regrets about returning to Russia, that his belief in God helped sustain him, and that “strength was in truth”.
“Our country is built on injustice. But tens of millions of people want the truth. And sooner or later they’ll get it.”
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter the court’s ruling was at odds with a call by the European Court of Human Rights this week to free Navalny, and could lead to more sanctions against Moscow.