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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More