KIROV, Russia -- Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny says his retrial in a politically charged case is being rushed to a conclusion and that he expects the court will convict him in order to bar him from running for president in 2018, when Vladimir Putin may seek a fourth Kremlin term.
"Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow there will be final statements by the prosecutors, lawyers, and defendants, and the verdict will be announced soon after that," Navalny told journalists on February 1, during a break in the trial in the provincial city of Kirov, some 800 kilometers northeast of Moscow.
Navalny said that the judge was conducting the trial at a fast pace to "impede my election campaign," adding that he expects a guilty verdict but will remain politically active regardless of the outcome.
Navalny and co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov were brought forcibly to Kirov for the February 1 hearing by court bailiffs after missing two hearings in the retrial.
The court ordered both men to remain in the city until the proceedings are completed.
An outspoken anticorruption activist who helped lead large protests against Putin and the Russian government in 2011-12, Navalny is being tried again after the Supreme Court threw out his 2013 conviction on charges of large-scale theft that stemmed from what prosecutors said were illegal machinations in timber sales in the Kirov region.
Navalny was handed a five-year suspended sentence in the initial trial in what is known as the Kirovles case, which he and supporters say was Kremlin-mandated punishment for his opposition activity and his antigraft organization's reports alleging corruption among officials close to Putin. He was convicted of fraud in a separate case in 2014 and given a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence.
Navalny announced in December that he plans to run for president in the next election, due to be held in March 2018.
Putin, who has been in power since 2000 and returned to the presidency in 2012 after a stating as prime minister, is widely expected to seek a new six-year term.
Lawyers and supporters of Navalny say the Supreme Court ruling throwing out the initial verdict enabled Navalny to seek political office, but if he is convicted in the retrial again he will again be barred. He and Ofitserov face up to six years in prison if convicted.
The hearing on February 1 came after bailiffs enforced a court order to bring Navalny to the trial, even though he had bought a plane ticket to Kirov.
After Navalny and Ofitserov missed two sessions of the trial, the court ruled on January 31 that they must be compelled to appear.
With reporting by TVrain.ru and Interfax