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Friday
Feb272015

Can Navalny still move Moscow?

Supporters in Moscow hold "Navalny" placards at Manezhnaya Square at an unsanctioned rally on December 30, 2014Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny has called for mass protests in Moscow on March 1. Navalny himself won't be there. He's serving a 15-day prison sentence for handing out leaflets about the protests in Moscow's subway.

Navalny said he's calling for the March 1 demonstration to bring attention to Russia's growing financial crisis.

He said distributing leaflets in the Moscow subway didn't break any laws and the arrest was intended to silence him. He left court on February 19 in handcuffs and was taken to jail.

Navalny has been one of the most outspoken critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Putin and his government have not been able to pull the country out of the crisis and they must go,” Navalny, 38, wrote recently on his blog.

Three years ago, Navalny led mass protests against corruption in Putin's government. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Navlany had called for at least 100,000 protesters to turn out on March 1.

But Putin’s approval numbers have soared since early 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and the West imposed economic sanctions. His approval ratings have now reached 87%, Time said.

Navlany was given a suspended prison sentence in December after a criminal embezzlement trial. Most Western countries condemned his prosecution as politically motivated. He was also ordered to remain under house arrest. But he removed his ankle tracker and began appearing around Moscow.

Navalny's brother and co-defendant in the embezzlement trial was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. Navalny has said his brother is a “political hostage.”

Navlany ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013. He lost to the incumbent mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin crony. But Navalny's strong showing with nearly 30 percent of the vote surprised the Kremlin.

He gained fame in 2010 when he posted evidence of an alleged $4 billion fraud at Russia pipeline giant Transneft.

Navalny, a trained lawyer, said he now expects prosecutors to bring further charges against him.

One of his attorneys said Navalny would appeal the embezzlement verdict through the Russian courts and ask the European Court of Human Rights to revoke the suspended sentence.

________

Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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