Russia: Opposition Leader Convicted of Embezzlement

Aleksei A. Navalny, Moscow mayoral candidate and Russian opposition leader, was found guilty Thursday of embezzling funds from a state-owned timber company, the New York Times reported.

Navalny was convicted of embezzling 16 million rubles ($500,000) worth of timber from the Kirovles company during his time as an advisor to Kirov’s Governor Nikita Belykh, the BBC reported.

Judge Sergei Blinov did not announce a sentence, although prosecutors demanded a six-year term. Navalny could be disqualified from the September mayoral elections. His candidacy could be continued if sentencing is deferred.

Navalny has repeatedly denied the charge, saying it is a politically motivated trial to remove him from politics due to his opposition to President Putin.

Navalny, a lawyer, became infamous in Russian politics as an anti-corruption campaigner and “personal irritant” to Putin. He dubbed Putin’s United Russia “the party of crooks and thieves”, the New York Times reported.

Vladmir Markin, a spokesman for the federal Investigative Committee, said Navalny had made a target of himself by criticizing public officials.

Several opposition leaders travelled to Moscow to be in the courthouse. Some were leaders who helped Navalny stage massive street protests in Moscow in December 2011 following disputed parliamentary elections.

Navalny has announced he would like to run for president, but a jail term could prevent him from running in the 2018 elections.