Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny to stand trial for fraud in 'fabricated' case

Accused is known for his investigations into corrupt dealings by officials and his campaigning against Putin

Moscow

A Russian court announced that it would put the country’s pre-eminent opposition leader on trial this month, in a case that has been widely decried as politically motivated.

The provincial court in Kirov said that hearings against Alexei Navalny, who is known for his investigations into corrupt dealings by officials and his campaigning against President Vladimir Putin, would begin on 17 April.

Mr Navalny, 36, is accused of stealing a consignment of timber while he was acting as an adviser to Kirov’s governor in 2009, and thus defrauding the local budget of around £330,000. If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 10 years. Even if he receives a suspended sentence, he would have a criminal record and thus be ineligible for public office.

He has repeatedly denied the claims and says the entire case has been “completely fabricated” on the orders of Mr Putin.

News of the trial came shortly after Mr Putin announced that all Russian officials have just two months to divest themselves of any foreign-held company shares or bank accounts. The Kremlin wants officials to keep their money inside Russia, after a number of scandals (many of which were uncovered by Mr Navalny) concerning officials who were surreptitiously keeping funds or properties abroad that did not appear to tally with their modest official salaries.

In February, Vladimir Pekhtin, a senior lawmaker from Mr Putin’s United Russia party, resigned after Mr Navalny revealed he owned nearly £1m of property in Florida. One Russian MP told The Independent that the sudden move against officials with suspicious overseas holdings in recent months has created a sense of panic inside parliament.

“Of course, people are really worried. A lot of people have property or money stashed abroad and it was always understood that that was OK,” said the parliamentarian.

“Now it seems like the rules have changed. They want to show that they can be tough on corruption too; they don’t want this to be just an issue for the opposition.”

Aware that Mr Navalny’s methods have won him support among Russians tired of official corruption, the Kremlin seems to be trying to co-opt his ideas for itself while divesting them of their sharp anti-Putin rhetoric.

It has moved more slowly with Mr Navalny than with lower-level participants in the street protests that he led against Mr Putin’s rule, which began in 2011.

There was speculation that the court case against him could have been left to hang as a threat to keep him quiet. Now, however, it appears that authorities are determined to see through the process.

Mr Navalny’s lawyers complained yesterday that the court had violated due procedure and bypassed preliminary hearings in the case, during which they would have made a number of complaints. Mr Navalny himself wrote on Twitter that the court’s decision was “trash”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back