The Navalny Trial in Brief: The Conviction & Its Impacts

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russia has seen several high profile trials in recent weeks, including the Pussy Riot case, the Sergei Magnitsky case (famous because the defendant was dead) and most recently, the trial of anti-corruption blogger, lawyer, & activist Aleksei Navalny.  Given Russia’s 99% conviction rate, the guilty verdict that came through earlier today was unsurprising.  His sentence – 5 years in prison on the charge of embezzlement – is seen by many Putin critics (and even admitted by members of the government) as motivated by his opposition activities.  

The impact of this case, though, will be much more interesting to follow.  Navalny has been described as the man Putin fears most,  and the outcome will shape Russian politics in the years to come.  While the long-term impacts may be difficult to judge, we are already seeing some immediate reactions:

Thinking long-term, people are questioning whether this trial shows a weakening of the Putin regime.  The Western media are increasingly comparing Navalny to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, though that analogy may still be a tad premature.  Mandela had a strong social movement and widespread public support to help undermine the Apartheid regime – to be a true challenger for power, Navalny still needs to show that he can take his appeal from a select group of tech-savvy urbanites and reach out across Russia’s social spectrum.

 

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