Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Found Guilty, Sentenced

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny

One of Kremlin’s staunchest critics Alexei Navalny is found guilty today by a local court in a fraud case that is said to be politically influenced.

Navalny, who uses his Livejournal blog and social media extensively to raise his voice against the Russian government and particularly the policies of President Vladimir Putin, gets a three-and-half year suspended sentence. His brother, Oleg Navalny, is also punished by the court to spend the same period in jail.

Alexei and Oleg have been facing charges of misappropriation of funds in a French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, which has its Russian subsidiary. The charges include stealing company money worth 30 million rubles (about $500,000) during 2008-2012, although the brothers have denied charges.

Navalny, 38, is a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member and the leader of the Russian political party Progress Party, formerly People’s Alliance.

He has been extremely vocal against the mounting corruption in Russia and in a 2011 radio interview he called Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, as a “party of crooks and thieves.”

He has been arrested many times by the Russian authorities. In 2013, he was charged in an embezzlement case and was sentenced for five years. However, Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Center intervened in Navalny’s defense and he was released from prison just a day after sentencing.

In February this year, he was placed under house arrest for two months and prohibited from communicating with anyone other than his family, after allegedly violating travel restrictions.

Protests are expected in Russia from Navalny supporters demanding his exoneration.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

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Rakesh Raman