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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim 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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid