Alexei Navalny, a 2010 Yale World Fellow and leader of the opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, received a 5-year jail sentence today for stealing timber — a punishment his supporters are denouncing as too harsh.
The sentence came after a court in Kirov, Russia found Navalny guilty of embezzlement, saying he tried to steal about half a million dollars from a local timber company when he worked with the Kirov region leadership. Though the term is one year shorter than the punishment originally requested by Russian state prosecutors, it will still keep Navalny from running in Moscow’s mayoral race in September. Navalny had declared his candidacy for mayor, and also had plans to run in the 2018 Presidential elections.
During the trial in April, Navalny told the media he expected a politically-motivated conviction. Navalny, who started vocalizing his political opinions on his blog, has since grown into a symbol for those objecting to Putin’s leadership.
Navalny arrived at Yale for the World Fellows program in November 2010, and during his time on campus, worked with professors at the Law School and the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at the School of Management. Navalny told the News in 2011 that the program gave him a better idea of how to use the international legal system to combat Russian political corruption.
Navalny’s trial has boosted his profile in Russia — he used his closing statement in court as a rallying message to his supporters.
“Okay. Do not get bored here without me,” Navalny tweeted after the sentencing. “And most importantly — do not dawdle.” He also referred to Putin and his administration as a toad in his message.