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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid