Russia jails Putin's foe for five years
Kirov (AFP): A Russian court on Thursday sentenced protest leader Alexei Navalny to five years in a penal colony after finding him guilty of...
Kirov (AFP): A Russian court on Thursday sentenced protest leader Alexei Navalny to five years in a penal colony after finding him guilty of embezzlement, a verdict which will disqualify one of President Vladimir Putin's fiercest critics from politics. Judge Sergei Blinov said he found Navalny guilty of defrauding the local government in the northern Kirov region of 16 million rubles ($500,000) in a timber deal while acting as an unpaid advisor to the local authorities. Navalny, 37, who emerged as a powerful political force in mass anti-Putin protests and is standing in elections for Moscow mayor, has dismissed the charges as absurd and a Kremlin set-up to end his political career. "Navalny... committed a grave crime," said Judge Sergei Blinov as he delivered the sentence. His co-accused, Pyotr Ofitserov, was also found guilty and sentenced to four years in a prison colony. "The court has established that Navalny organised the criminal act and led the execution of this large-scale embezzlement," Blinov told the cramped courthouse in Kirov. The verdict comes a day after he was accepted as a candidate for the high-profile Moscow mayoral race in September, raising the bizarre prospect that he could run for office while behind bars. Navalny's disqualification from politics would only take effect after the appeal process. Navalny has said he wants to challenge Putin in the next presidential elections in 2018 and coined the phrase "the party of crooks and thieves" to describe the ruling United Russia party. Navalny this week published a report accusing one of Putin's closest allies, the head of Russian Railways, of possessing vast undeclared property and business assets. He has also yet to win wide recognition beyond his powerbase in Moscow, where he has become a hero for many in the Internet-savvy middle class who yearn to live in a different Russia.