Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Navalny verdict is a warning to the fifth column

The reaction to the verdict of Alexei Navalny was tumultuous, as expected. His supporters and sympathizers speak about the political background of the case and the engagement of the court, calling the sentence "reprisal." The United States and the European Union condemn the verdict of a court in Russia's Kirov.

Opposition activist Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison. Another person involved in the case is former director of Vyatka Forest Company Peter Ofitserov - he was sentenced to four years. They were also fined 500,000 rubles each ($15,600).

The verdict is not final. Navalny's and Ofitserov's lawyers announced an intention to appeal.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a couple of hours after the verdict tweeted: "We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial."  

The  U.S. State Department will obviously say something like that too. Michael Mann, an official spokesman for Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union,  said that the sentence against Navalny and Ofitserov triggered serious questions about the supremacy of law in Russia. Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict  as well.

The press continues to count the losses of the Russian stock market after the announcement of the verdict.  Vice-speaker of the State Duma, Igor Lebedev, does not see anything unusual in the verdict. "I do not understand why such a fuss about an ordinary case of, the representative of the Liberal Democratic Party told Pravda.Ru. - Our courts make hundreds and thousands of convictions and no controversy is being made out of it," he said.

According to Lebedev, the hype surrounding the case of Alexei Navalny is farfetched. "If you're guilty before the law, then whoever you were - a janitor, a homeless man or a president - you have to answer for your crimes in full accordance with the Criminal Code."

A comment from LDPR was less diplomatic. The party supports "any verdicts and decisions of Russian courts to combat corruption, mafia, theft and the "fifth column."

"We have long warned that anyone who in any way is associated with the West, in the end will have to go on one of three paths: to repeat the fate of Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky or Gusinsky. Khodorkovsky is in jail for economic crimes, Berezovsky and Gusinsky had emigrated, Berezovsky committed suicide. These are the only possible outcomes for the "fifth column" in Russia," the statement published on the website of the Liberal Democratic Party said.

According to Professor of Higher School of Economics, Oleg Matveichev, "the opposition has no choice but to add politics to the case again, although there is nothing political in it." "There is no political article, there are no moments related to politics, this is a purely economic thing," he told Pravda.Ru.

The analyst stressed out that if the sentence is approved by higher courts, then it would mean that that is the way it should be. "It is up for the court to decide and bring down sentences. All citizens are equal before the law - it does not matter whether they belong to opposition or not. There are many people, who stayed or still stay in power, and they are being judged now in Russia, and nobody calls those processes political," said Matveichev.

"Navalny's supporters would talk about the corrupt court after absolutely every sentence, whether it would be a verdict with an imprisonment for or not," the former head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Civil Society Fund, Konstantin Kostin told Pravda.Ru.

"Right now, the verdict has not come into force yet, and it would not be correct to talk about it. Navalny's defense will appeal the verdict, and when it's all done, it would be possible to discuss something. Either way, the debate about rightly solutions and the validity of evidence must not be carried out on the streets. It all should take place at court, in accordance with the law. It is only prosecutors and defense that must conduct the dispute, within the scope of the law as well," said Kostin.

"The whole process shows that the judge focused exclusively on the facts and circumstances of the case. Within his competence, the judge came to conclusion that the arguments set forth by prosecution and witnesses indeed confirm the guilt of Navalny and Ofitserov," political scientist Leonid Polyakov believes.

"It is clear that Navalny supporters will argue that he is being pursued for political reasons, namely, that his case is political and that he is a victim of repression of the regime, but there is nothing we can do about it," said the analyst.

"As for the future of Mr. Navalny, I believe that the process is not finished. There will be appeals made to a higher court. I do not exclude that a higher court may take into consideration new circumstances of the case, as well as the economic expertise, on which Navalny insisted during this process. Therefore, it is too early to say that the case has been closed. I think we should wait for the development of events," said Leonid Polyakov.

Anton Ponomarev


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