PARIS — Calls to boycott Yves Rocher are proliferating online as Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to two years detention for violating parole in a case linked to the French beauty company that dates back almost a decade.
“A boycott of #YvesRocher is simple and just. They are complicit,” tweeted @SambievSambo.
“YvesRocher is an accomplice of facism [sic] in Russia. You are participants in the illegal prosecution of Navalny. I call on all honest, caring people to boycott the company,” tweeted @muhlyak1.
For its part, Yves Rocher said in a statement Thursday that it has never filed a complaint against Navalny or his brother Oleg, or made legal claims against them at any time.
Navalny, who has been outspoken and sparked demonstrations against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, has only recently returned to his home country.
Navalny had been unable to regularly check in with prison administrators starting in August 2020, since he was almost poisoned to death in Russia, an act strongly believed to have been carried out by the country’s secret police, according to reports. Navalny spent months convalescing in Germany.
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In mid-January, back in Russia, he was taken into custody for violating parole. On Feb. 2, his sentence’s suspension was revoked, and he has been sentenced to two years’ detention.
The case dates back to 2012, when local authorities questioned Yves Rocher Vostok, Yves Rocher’s Russian subsidiary, in a judicial investigation into the Glavpodpiska company that was owned by the brothers. Yves Rocher said clues were found making it likely fraud had been committed by Glavpodpiska against the company, whose services had been recommended after the Yarsolav post office seemed to be struggling with the volume of packages. Oleg Navalny was a senior official at the Russian post office at the time.
A first judgment was handed down against the Navalny brothers on Dec. 30, 2014. The judgment was then confirmed by the Moscow Court of Appeal in 2015 and by the Russian Supreme Court in 2018.
Alexei Navalny was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of three-and-a-half years, with a probation period of five years, ending Dec. 30, 2019. In 2017, that was extended to Dec. 29, 2020.
In 2018, his brother received the same sentence but involving served prison time, for money laundering and fraud.
The European Court of Human Rights in 2017 ruled that the Navalny brothers had been deprived of their right to a fair trial and decried “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable” court decisions.
The brothers in 2018 filed a complaint with the constitution of civil party for “slanderous denunciation” against Yves Rocher in Vannes, France. That case was closed at the end of 2019, but it has been appealed.
On Thursday, Yves Rocher published a press release on its website in English, saying: “Our group reiterates its total commitment to and respect for individual freedoms, the rule of law and freedom of expression.
“While it condemns any principles of which Mr. Alexei Navalny may have been victim, it cannot remain silent in the face of unjust public questioning in strict accordance with the facts and the law in this case, and owes it to its clients, partners and employees to establish the truth,” the company wrote.
The group outlined the various stages of the legal proceedings in Russia.
“Yves Rocher Vostok never filed a complaint against the Navalny brothers or made any legal claim against them at any time,” wrote Yves Rocher. “Moreover, from 2013, Yves Rocher Vostok did not intervene in the proceedings.”
Yves Rocher said that in Russia, all legal proceedings regarding Yves Rocher Vostok have been closed. So have criminal proceedings in France. However, with Alexei Navalny’s request for their reopening, there are current proceedings before the court of appeal in Rennes, France, having to do with a refusal by the examining magistrate to authorize additional acts against Yves Rocher, the company said.
“We would like to remind you that Groupe Rocher is apolitical,” it said. “To that extent, we do not wish to be used for political purpose or to take part in the current political debate in Russia.”
Family-owned Groupe Rocher registered sales of 2.75 billion euros in 2019.
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