On Thursday, the Kirov region’s Court sentenced a well-known oppositionist and a fighter against corruption Alexei Navalny to a five-year term and a fine of 500,000 roubles for involvement in a theft of 16 million roubles from the Kirovles state-run company. The verdict caused a wide resonance not only in Russia but also abroad.
According to investigators, while in the position of the Kirov region’s Advisor to the Governor in May-September of 2009, Navalny, in collusion with director of the Vyatka Forest Company Peter Ofitserov and Kirovles’ CEO Vyacheslav Opalev, organised a theft of more than 10,000 cubic meters of wood, the Vedomosti writes.
Navalny’s guilt was proved fully, the court said. The oppositionist’s claims about political reasons for his accusation were not confirmed, Judge Sergei Blinov said. While voicing the verdict, the judge said the position of the Kirov region governor’s advisor had not stopped Navalny from committing the crime. The court did not find reasons to doubt the proofs presented by the prosecutor, which prove the opposite the information provided by the lawyers, Judge Blinov said.
The newspaper writes that Navalny runs for Moscow’s mayor and competes with Sergei Sobyanin at the early election due in September. On Wednesday, on the eve of the court hearings, the Moscow Elections Commission made a decision to register Navalny as a candidate. Navalny is a candidate from the PRP-PARNAS party.
Alexei Navalny and head of the Vyatka Forest Company Petr Ofitserov were sentenced to five and four years terms respectively, the Kommersant reports. Navalny and Ofitserov were arrested in the court. However, the decision on the arrest may be changed on July 19 already. The information which arrived on Thursday evening is that the prosecution may argue the arrest of the two men before the court decision entered its legal force.
The court decision was based on evidences from three witnesses, with who Navalny was in conflict, as he insisted on firing them and on bringing them to criminal responsibilities, - thus, they had reasons to give false testimonies against him.
Immediately after the verdict was voiced, the oppositionist’s allies called for organisation of a “people’s assembly” in Manezhnaya Square to discuss Navalny’s verdict, the RBC Daily reports. Thus, the police quoted about 2,500 participants in the rally around Manezhnaya Square. The oppositionists, in their turn, claim the number of participants was between seven and twenty thousand. The police detained 50-60 people.
In the evening, as several people came to Manezhnaya Square demanding Alexei Navaly was set free, there was information that the prosecution had asked the court to release the two men from the pre-trial prison, the newspaper writes. “The court did not have grounds to change Navalny and Ofitserov’s restraint, and before the verdict comes into the legal force they may remain at large, having signed obligations not to leave the country,” the Kirov region’s prosecution states on its site on the Internet. If Navalny is released and signs the obligation, he would be able to participate in the election, head of Navalny’s election headquarters Leonid Volkov told the Dozhd television channel.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports Head of the Political Technologies Centre Igor Bunin as being sure the power is making Navalny one of major political leaders of the opposition. “Formerly, information about him was only little, only a few percent of the nation were aware of him. After the court hearings, his popularity has jumped. This, surely, offers new opportunities for him.”
Russia’s political system is confused, Deputy Director General of the Political Technologies Centre Boris Makarenko said. “On one hand, the power claims competition is necessary, on the other - they are doing everything to keep those able to bring whatever new away from the innovations. Prokhorov was allowed there - and immediately they adopt a law, which bans foreign accounts or nomination for elections. The decision was not only against Prokhorov, the thing is his was the first victim. Navalny was allowed to the election, in order to make them real in Moscow, but later he was pushed to the pre-trial prison and further into nowhere. To the pre-trial prison - realistically, and to nowhere was pushed Navalny as a political figure.”
Russian human rights experts call Alexei Navalny a political prisoner, the Novye Izvestia writes. “Most likely, the verdict we heard today, is connected with his fighting the corruption, with his political activities,” Sergei Nikitin of Amnesty International said.
Mikhail Prokhorov, the leader of the Civil Platform, the newspaper continues writing, is also sure only a few could fail to see a political component in Navalny’s case, and is sure that the verdict “affects directly interests of small and medium businesses.” “This is not a mere verdict to the national judicial system. We, most likely, have witnessed a new page in the history of the Russian entrepreneurship. From now on, every person entering a business agreement would know for sure: should it be required, he may be put to prison for the agreement at any time,” Prokhorov said.
The voicing of the verdict to Alexei Navalny and Petr Ofitserov cased immediately a slump in the Russian stock market - equity indexes lost 1.3 percent. Analysts say the news about the verdict was the trigger for the changes in the market situation.