Navalny was back in court on Friday for the next hearing in the defamation case, showing no signs of backing down as he berated the judge.
“Stop shaming yourself and enrol in some courses to improve your knowledge of the laws of the Russian Federation,” Navalny said, backing a request from his lawyer for the judge to be replaced.
If the February 2 hearing was a piece of political drama, then the defamation trial has become a comedy, said political analyst Anton Orekh.
But the appearances are also Navalny’s only chance to keep up his fight against the authorities.
“If you don’t have an opportunity to take part in polls and speak in parliament, if you don’t have an opportunity to peacefully take to the streets and express your feelings and thoughts, if you have been stripped of access to state TV channels, the only thing that remains is a courtroom stand,” Orekh wrote on his blog.
Since emerging as the Kremlin’s top critic a decade ago, Navalny has stood in stark contrast to Putin and painted the 68-year-old as out of touch.
In the age of social media, Navalny’s courtroom theatrics are especially appealing to young Russians, Kalachev said.
“Putin is losing support among young people, polls show it,” he said. “For young people, he is like an alien, a man from the moon.”
Navalny “speaks the same language as young people, they can see themselves in him,” Kalachev added. “His clothes, his tastes, his wife, his family… he represents the urban middle class.”