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Explainer: What Comes Next For Aleksei Navalny?

  • Robert Coalson

A policeman puts handcuffs on opposition leader Aleksei Navalny inside the courtroom in Kirov on July 18.

A policeman puts handcuffs on opposition leader Aleksei Navalny inside the courtroom in Kirov on July 18.

Opposition politician and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny has been sentenced to five years in prison by a court in Kirov, just one day after being officially registered as a candidate for mayor of Moscow.

What is happening to Navalny now?

Judge Sergei Blinov of the Leninsky district court in Kirov sentenced Navalny to five years in prison on July 18.

"The court finds Aleksei Anatolyevich Navalny guilty under Article 33 and Article 160 of the Russian Criminal Code of March 7, 2011 and sentences him to five years' imprisonment, without [further] restriction of freedom [that is, after the prison term has been served], and a fine of 500,000 rubles [$15,400] to be paid to the state. The prison term is to be served at a general-security penal colony."

Navalny and his lawyers have said they will appeal the sentence.

Navalny was immediately handcuffed and taken from the courtroom. According to sources cited by Interfax, he will be held in SIZO-1, a detention facility in Kirov. According to the Kirov website of the Federal Court Bailiffs Service, "SIZO-1 of the Vyatsky Prison Complex is modern and well-equipped for security and supervision, staffed by professionals of the corrections system." There is also a SIZO-2 in the city of Kirov and a SIZO-3 in Kirov Oblast.

If the Leninsky district court verdict is upheld, the Federal Penitentiary Service will determine where Navalny will serve his sentence. It will not necessarily have to be in the Kirov region.

What is the appeals process like?

Navalny's lawyers must appeal the district court's ruling within 10 days to the Kirov Oblast Court. That court must begin considering the appeal within 30 days.

The oblast court's ruling can then be appealed to the Supreme Court, whose ruling is final. The Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case, in which case the oblast court's ruling would be final.

Navalny's defense team has vowed that if he loses all his appeals in Russia, they will take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. It is unknown how long that process might take or what effect, if any, it might have on Navalny's de facto situation.

Is Navalny facing other legal cases?

Russian prosecutors have opened three other legal cases against Navalny that could be brought to trial. One involves allegations that an advertising company headed by Navalny defrauded the Union of Rightist Forces political party of some $3 million in 2007. The second charges that a postal services company owned by Navalny and his brother deceived the Yves Rocher cosmetics firm. And the third claims he conspired to illegally privatize the Urzhum distillery in Kirov Oblast.

Can Navalny continue his campaign for the September 8 Moscow mayoral election?

Navalny can continue his campaign until the appeals process is exhausted, says Russian election-law expert Leonid Kirichenko.

"For now, he is still a candidate -- he can campaign, his headquarters can work. Even the Moscow Election Commission has said this on the basis of the law," Kirichenko explains.

However, Navalny's spokeswoman Anna Veduta said on Twitter after the verdict that Navalny will withdraw from the race. She also said, however, that his Moscow headquarters will continue "to wage a campaign for Navalny."

If the court's verdict is upheld, Navalny would not be able to continue to campaign, Kirichenko adds. If it is upheld after the election, Navalny would not be able to serve as mayor.

Kirichenko says, however, that the appeals process can move very quickly and there is no reason to believe it would drag on beyond the September 8 election day.

Moscow election law states that a candidacy may not be annulled later than five days before the election -- which would mean the latest date that Navalny could be removed would be September 3.

Can Navalny continue his anticorruption campaign?

Navalny has vowed to continue his efforts to expose corruption in Russia. Jailed former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been able to communicate from prison and to publish occasional articles and manifestoes.

Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation says it will continue to work and to publish exposes of corruption within the Russian government and state companies. In his final blog post on July 17, Navalny called on everyone to contribute to the effort: "It is clear what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and with what means it must be done. The main thing is to gather one's courage, throw off laziness, and do it. No particular leadership is needed."

Speaking in Kirov after the verdict on July 18, Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, stressed that her husband's work will go on.

"Our whole family and I have supported and will continue to support him. If anyone hopes that Aleksei's investigations will stop, it's not going to happen," she said. "His Anticorruption Foundation will continue its work."
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    Robert Coalson

    Robert Coalson covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Send story tips to