News / Europe

Russian Opposition Leader Sentenced to 5 Years

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (L, front) is escorted by an Interior Ministry officer inside a courtroom in Kirov, July 18, 2013.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (L, front) is escorted by an Interior Ministry officer inside a courtroom in Kirov, July 18, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
— A Kirov-based court on Thursday found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty of embezzlement and sentenced him to five years in prison.
 
Russian judge Sergey Blinov convicted the country's leading opposition figure, the country’s first dissident to use the Internet to attain a wide following, of stealing 10,000 tons of timber, estimated at $500,000, from a state company while working as an adviser to a provincial governor in 2009.
 
Navalny has called the charges politically motivated and said they are intended to silence him.

The sentence prevents Navalny, 37, from running in Moscow's September mayoral race, for which he recently registered, and from running for president in 2018. Under a new law, someone convicted of a serious crime, such as major theft, is barred for life from seeking office.
 
The charismatic anti-corruption crusader became Russia’s most popular Internet blogger, often drawing more than one-million hits. His site prompted several resignations from Russia’s Duma and saddled the ruling United Russia party with the label “the party of crooks and thieves."
 
His campaign was so damaging that Internet searches for the party now call up references to "crooks and thieves." Navalny’s campaign prompted the Kremlin to tighten slander laws and to form the Russian People’s Front.
 
Today few observers were convinced that Navalny had committed theft. Konstantin von Eggert, editor-in-chief of the privately held Kommersant FM radio, explained the Kremlin’s strategy as meaning "authorities think that he is really dangerous."
 
"It also means that his political career starts in earnest this day. Because, in Russia, jail is the ultimate certificate of authenticity for a politician," von Eggert said.
 
A friend of President Vladmir Putin and a former finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, tweeted, "The verdict for Navalny looks not so much like punishment as it looks directed at isolating him from public life and the electoral process."
 
Vladimir Ryzhkov and other Russian dissidents noted the jail sentence was imposed on Navalny just as Putin congratulated South Africa’s Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday. Ryzkhov said the irony was not lost on many Internet savvy Russians.
 
Russia’s state television buried the Navalny verdict; news programs generally reported his conviction after lavish coverage of the closing concert and fireworks of a sporting event, and after coverage of the president observing Russia’s largest military maneuvers since the end of the Cold War.
 
"It will not be possible not to mention the trial in the Internet age," said von Eggert. "But mentioning it as number three in the pecking order of news, and presenting it as [a] common criminal case is aimed to minimize the blowback from the trial and to present Navalny just as a common criminal."
 
Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire who came in second in Moscow in last year’s presidential election, wrote after the verdict: "Navalny's sentence is a direct blow against the interests of small and mid-sized businesses, the basis of any developed society. I wonder how many young talented businessmen and lawyers are already mentally packing their bags at this very moment."

Supporters react
 
In Moscow, Navalny supporters announced they are converting his campaign for mayor into a campaign to boycott the September election.

Earlier this year, opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta researched rulings of Blinov, who heard Navalny's case. All Blinov's verdicts were "guilty" in 130 rulings in an 18-month time period.  

Last year, Navalny, who had said he wants to be Russia's next president and jail Putin and his associates, angered the current president by leading mass street demonstrations in the capital.

He also helped organize mass protests starting in 2011 against alleged electoral fraud and Putin's return to the presidency.

American and European observers condemned the conviction and sentencing.
 
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted, "We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial."

Immediately after the judge strode from the courtroom, Navalny embraced his wife Yulia and was immediately taken to jail.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
July 18, 2013 6:16 PM
Putin has to be careful who ends up in power next. Whoever it is could end up putting Putin behind bars for some of his actions in the past and present. It's a shame... What we could see soon is a revolt sooner or later from the people of Russia, more demonstrations. Nobody wants to put up with this stuff...


by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
July 18, 2013 7:55 AM
Earlier two times the ruling regime in vain had tried to silence Mr. Navalny with embezzlement charges while he worked for the governor of Kirov region. Every time the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. In desperation the regime launched the present, third attempt to isolate Mr.Navalny from wider Russian society and, lo and behold, they managed to pronounce Mr. Navalny guilty.

Even neutral lawyers don’t see the trial as honest and fair with the verdict disproportional. Now, even people who aren’t among admirers of Mr. Navalny, see him as a new, the most prominent martyr of the regime, the uniting figure that will consolidate all opposition to the regime with the prospect to repeat the fate of Nelson Mandela. What a coincidence: Moscow’s stock exchanges indices plummeted by 2% after breaking of the news. A little earlier the level of investments in Russia stumbled to new lows. The regime leads Russian economics to a standstill.

In Response

by: Chank from: Spb
July 18, 2013 5:37 PM
Just now we're lost. In this very moment. But still.. maybe we can defend ourselves?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid