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.
James Brooke
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.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs