News / Europe

Russia Tries Top Opposition Leader

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny speaks to the media after a court hearing in Kirov, April 24, 2013.
Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny speaks to the media after a court hearing in Kirov, April 24, 2013.
James Brooke
— Russia’s top opposition leader went on trial Wednesday in Kirov, a provincial capital nearly 1,000 kilometers northeast of his power base in Moscow.

Last year, Alexei Navalny angered Russian President Vladimir Putin for leading mass street demonstrations in Russia’s capital. Navalny’s anti-corruption blog has drawn as many as a million views from Russia’s Internet savvy younger generation. The Wall Street Journal newspaper has called Navalny “the man Vladimir Putin fears most.”

Wednesday in Kirov, near the edge of Siberia, Navalny pleaded not guilty in Lenin District Court to charges that he stole half a million dollars worth of timber from a state logging company when he worked for the Kirov regional government four years ago.

Before the trial, Navalny, a charismatic 36-year-old, declared that he plans to run as a candidate in Russia’s next presidential elections, five years from now. Today, he called the trial “a setup” to oust him from politics.

In response, Judge Sergey Blinov told Navalny to stop calling the trial a political trial.

Politically motivated?

In Moscow, Vladimir Ryzhkov, an opposition politician, said the trial is all about politics.

“The goal of the authorities is, first, to make it impossible for him to participate in elections, especially in Moscow, where he is quite popular,” said Ryzhkov, who is co-chair of Russia’s Republican Party.  “The second goal, if they imprison him, is to stop his activity on the Internet, because he is mostly active on the Internet. And the authorities’ third goal is defamation, to discredit him.”

Many analysts saw Wednesday’s court case as the biggest trial against a political rival of President Putin since the arrest 10 years ago of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the richest man in Russia.

“The case of Khodorkovsky shows us that this is very serious, that Putin has no mercy against his enemies, and he will try to make sure that they all are at least politically destroyed,” said Dmitry Suslov, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

Kremlin targets NGOs

The trial comes as a crackdown continues on Russian nongovernmental organizations. On Wednesday, inspectors visited the offices of Transparency International, the anti-corruption group, and the Levada Center, Russia’s leading polling group.

At a press conference in Moscow, Tatyana Lokshina, an official with the Russian branch of Human Rights Watch, accused the Kremlin of trying "suffocate" civil society by demanding that NGOs produce thousands upon thousands of pages of documents.

“It’s not just about Navalny," said opposition politician Ryzhkov. "In general, the authorities are waging a campaign of discrediting all the leaders of the opposition, trying to cast them as radicals, crooks, and irresponsible people who want only to harm Russia.”

But government supporters say that the Kremlin is merely trying to determine which Russian groups receive foreign support. They say such groups should declare themselves to be “foreign agents.”

"Not guilty" not likely

As for Navalny, they say he now has a chance to clear his name in court.

 “Of course, we can say much about him as a fighter against corruption, but if you start to fight against corruption, then you should probably be, above all, clean yourself,” said Ekaterina Stenyakina, a leader of Molodaya Gvardia, a group that supports the Kremlin. “If anyone called [Navalny’s work] a phenomenon, then the phenomenon is over. This person’s guilt has been established in corrupt activities. It’s been proven. And now we’re waiting for the court’s decision.”

Navalny himself has told reporters that he fully expects to be found guilty.

Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, researched the 130 rulings made over the last 18 months by Judge Blinov.

Every verdict was: “Guilty.”

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
April 24, 2013 9:46 PM
I pity the authorities as they in vain try to win the momentum in Russia. But the authorities mistook the aim of their efforts as it should be economical but not political. The country unavoidably slides into economic recession, showing that authorities are unabile to mend economy. Nothing hampered their monopolized rule to prevent this from happening but their inefficiency and silencing of all critics.
To no avail they have silenced he anticorruption campaigner and all the HGOs. Actually they wanted to fight the inefficiency all over Russia. Actual threat to their rule comes from economics but not from politics.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid