The opposition leader Alexei Navalny gave a grand-standing speech in his opening remarks to the provincial court trying him on embezzlement charges. Mr Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who led street protests against President Vladimir Putin, dismissed the case as “political revenge”.
If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, but Mr Navalny told the court in Kirov, 600 miles east of Moscow: “The main goal of this trial is to remove me from the electoral process.” Alluding to a recent law which excludes serious offenders from elected office, he added: “The case is absolutely politically motivated, and fabricated. My innocence is visible to everyone regardless of the verdict that this court returns.”
He allegedly embezzled cash from a timber firm while an adviser to Kirov’s regional governor in 2009 in a case seen as part of a crackdown on dissent.
Mr Navalny’s trial resumes today while, in Moscow, a court is due to begin hearing the case against Alexander Lebedev, the Russian businessman and financial backer of The Independent. He is accused of hooliganism and political hatred after throwing a punch during a televised chat show in 2011. If convicted he could be jailed for up to five years. He also describes the charges as politically motivated.