Alexei Navalny Prison: Putin Tightens His Grip On Power
While the United States was shaken by the Zimmerman trial, Russia had its own capstone event, the Kirovles trial, which kept the country intrigued for several months. In the trial, which I covered several days ago, Alexei Navalny faced charges of embezzling around $510,000 from a state timber company, when he worked as a voluntary adviser to the governor of the Kirov region of Russia. Mr. Navalny will be imprisoned for five years starting today. As hopes of Mr. Navalny's acquittal faded away today while the judge was reading out the accusatory verdict, many citizens are convinced that this trial marks the end of Russia's democracy.
Earlier this summer Mr. Navalny decided to challenge the current mayor of Moscow, member of the ruling United Russia party, and started a successful electoral campaign gaining popularity very quickly. Russian opposition had hopes that Alexei Navalny would challenge Mr. Putin in the 2018 presidential race in Russia. Now that this has become impossible, many fear that both the Moscow mayoral elections and future presidential elections will be conducted with no real alternatives to the ruling party’s candidates.
After the verdict had been announced in Kirov, Moscow residents took to the streets to express their discontent and anger. By 9 p.m. Moscow time, all central streets were full of people chanting "Free Navalny" and "Freedom." It looked like the authorities, who were not ready for such a vocal popular reaction, decided to make concessions to protesters and made the Kirov regional prosecutor appeal the arrest of Mr. Navalny. The decision was likely a result of pressure from the Putin administration, as there are no precedents in Russian judiciary in which a prosecutor who asks for the imprisonment of a defendant later demands temporary release until the sentence goes into force.
Mr. Navalny had a feeling that he would go to prison after all, which is why he published a new portion of material about corruption in the state company “Russian Railways,“ which is headed by one of the most corrupt families in Russia. It remains unclear who will take over Navalny's famous anti-corruption campaigns, but one thing is for sure — Russia lost one of its most talented young politicians, which is a point of no return for the country.