Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Daily Vertical: The Real Jury Is Still Out On Navalny (Transcript)

In high-profile cases, Russian courts don't really rule on matters of law.

Instead, they are instruments in matters of politics. They send signals, they settle scores, and they advance Kremlin objectives.

So what exactly did we learn from Aleksei Navalny's most recent show trial that wrapped up yesterday?

What was the Kremlin trying to say by giving Navalny a five-year suspended sentence on embezzlement charges that are widely believed to be frivolous?

What does it mean that Navalny got the exact same sentence that was handed down by the exact same court in 2013?

What does it mean that the verdict repeated word for word the very same verdict that was overturned by the Supreme Court in November?

What it basically means is that the conversation and the argument in the Kremlin over what to do about Navalny is ongoing.

WATCH Today's Daily Vertical

There is a faction in the Kremlin that views Navalny as dangerous to Vladimir Putin's regime.

They fear he could be a vehicle for populist and antiestablishment sentiments and that if left free he could eventually blindside the Kremlin.

This faction wants to lock Navalny up and throw away the key.

Had Navalny been given a prison sentence, it would have indicated that this faction won the argument.

But another faction wants to use Navalny.

They want to let him run for president to give next year's elections an aura of legitimacy, and defeat him decisively with the Kremlin's considerable administrative resources.

If Navalny had been acquitted outright, it would have meant that this faction won out.

What a conviction and a suspended sentence suggests is that the argument about Navalny is ongoing and that the Putin regime doesn't yet know what to do about him.

Yesterday's verdict was just the latest chapter in the Navalny saga. But it is far from the last one.

Keep telling me what you think on The Power Vertical's Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.