News / Europe

Putin Foe Navalny Defiant as Trial Opens in Russia

Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny addressing media after court hearing, Kirov, April 17, 2013.
Russian opposition leader and anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny addressing media after court hearing, Kirov, April 17, 2013.
Reuters
Protest leader Alexei Navalny accused Russian authorities of fabricating charges against him at the start of a trial on Wednesday that he says is intended to crush opposition to Vladimir Putin.
 
The anti-corruption blogger, 36, was calm and defiant during a 40-minute appearance in court in the provincial city of Kirov before Judge Sergei Blinov adjourned proceedings until April 24 to give the defense more time to prepare its case.
 
Navalny could face 10 years in jail if convicted of stealing 16 million roubles ($510,000) from a timber firm in Kirov that he was advising in 2009 while working for the liberal regional governor.
 
The most prominent opposition leader to be tried in post-Soviet Russia, Navalny has suggested Putin ordered the trial to sideline him as a potential presidential rival.
 
"The case is totally falsified, trumped up. I am completely innocent," he told reporters in court, reiterating his belief that he would be convicted regardless of the evidence.
 
Casually dressed in an open-necked shirt with no tie or jacket, Navalny chatted casually with reporters and thanked them for attending. His wife Yulia sat calmly in court behind him, flanked by opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
 
Tall and clean-cut, Navalny has been a thorn in the side of the government since starting to campaign online against state corruption in 2007. He established himself as a powerful speaker at anti-Putin demonstrations that flared 16 months ago.
 
Hundreds of people rallied in support of Navalny in central Moscow on Wednesday evening, but the wave of protests against Putin's 13-year domination of Russia has ebbed. On the muddy streets of industrial Kirov, few showed sympathy with Navalny.
 
"He is probably guilty of something," said Anya, a young woman selling toy cars in the main square of Kirov, almost 900 km [550 miles] northeast of Moscow and dominated by grey Soviet-era buildings.
 
"His supporters would say this is political, of course, but I think there must be more to it since the case has gone this far," she said.
 
Grigory Pandzensky, a student, said: "It looks like he's guilty... It would be best if he went to jail."
 
Making an example

The Kremlin sees little risk in making an example of Navalny to discourage dissent because conservative voters in the provinces — Putin's traditional support base — are either indifferent or likely to welcome a jail sentence for Navalny.
 
A recent opinion poll indicated about 37 percent of Russians know who Navalny is, a sharp increase in the past two years, but only 14 percent would vote for him in a presidential election.
 
"People like him give me hope that I will live in a normal country someday," Tatyana Styopkina, 66, said at the rally in support of Navalny in Moscow's Pushkin Square on Wednesday.
 
"Everyone here knows very well that Navalny is not guilty of anything he is being accused of," veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, 85, told the crowd, prompting cheers and applause. "He is being persecuted for fighting corruption."
 
Navalny is rarely seen on state television, the main source of news for the millions of Russians outside the big cities.
 
Since Putin's return to the Kremlin last May after four years as prime minister, two members of the dissident band Pussy Riot have been jailed, a prominent protest leader has been thrown out of parliament and another is under house arrest.
 
A dozen protesters also face sentences of up to 10 years over clashes with police at a rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration last May, and parliament has pushed through tough new penalties and fines for demonstrators who stray out of line.
 
A spokesman for Russia's Investigative Committee, which answers to Putin, said on Friday the case against Navalny had been speeded up because he had done "everything in his power to attract attention to himself'' and taunt the authorities.
 
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied the president uses the courts for political ends and says the Kremlin leader will not be following the trial.
 
Navalny's case has caused international concern and two Western diplomats were among those packed into the small Leninsky Court. They declined comment.
 
Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, who still has the ear of the Kremlin, said the trial brought to mind the idea of "time travel" back to the Soviet era and warned that it "calls into question the basics of the market economy."
 
Navalny's supporters in Kirov said they would keep supporting him. In a show of defiance, they have made the password for their Internet account navalny2018, a reference to the year when the next presidential election is scheduled.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid