Kremlin critic Navalny sent to prison outside Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. A Moscow court on Saturday considered Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence as the country faced a top European rights court's order to free the most prominent Kremlin foe. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. A Moscow court on Saturday considered Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence as the country faced a top European rights court's order to free the most prominent Kremlin foe. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sent to a prison outside Moscow to serve his sentence, his lawyer said Thursday, a move that comes despite a demand by Europe's top human rights court for his release.

Navalny lawyer Vadim Kobzev didn't immediately say what prison he was sent to. Russian news reports have previously indicated that Navalny, who has been held in a maximum-security jail in Moscow, would likely be sent to a facility in western Russia.

Navalny, 44, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vociferous foe, was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation and accused Navalny of cooperating with Western intelligence agencies — claims he has ridiculed.

Earlier this month, Navalny was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for violating the terms of his probation while convalescing in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated — and which the European Сourt of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.

Navalny’s arrest has fueled a wave of protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets across Russia. Authorities have detained about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

Russian officials have dismissed demands from the United States and the European Union to free Navalny and stop the crackdown on his supporters.

Moscow also rejected the ECHR ruling that, citing risks to Navalny's life in custody, ordered the Russian government to release him. The Russian government has rebuffed the court's demand as unlawful and “inadmissible” meddling in Russia’s home affairs.

Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose new sanctions against Russian officials linked to Navalny’s jailing.