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Navalny's Taunts Led to 'Speedy' Investigation

Published: April 15, 2013 (Issue # 1754)



  • Alexei Navalny
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Days before the much-anticipated trial of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is scheduled to begin, an Investigative Committee spokesman has suggested that Navalny's constant criticism of the government caused investigators to "accelerate" work on the case against him.

When someone "uses all his energy to bring attention to himself" and "provokes the government," his past attracts more attention, and the process of exposing him "accelerates," spokesman Vladimir Markin told Izvestia in a interview published on Friday that was remarkable for its open distain.

The government had previously denied any link between Navalny's politics and the criminal case, and Markin again insisted that the charges were not politically motivated, but rather "Navalny … banal," he said, correcting a dubious slip of the tongue.

At several points in the interview, Markin seemed to express outright contempt for the opposition leader, calling him a foreign puppet, accusing his projects of "parasitizing" government mechanisms, and saying his anti-corruption skills could come in handy in prison.

Navalny, 36, a lawyer who rose to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger, currently operates several Internet-based projects that investigate government spending, spread anti-government propaganda, and make it easier for tenants to report problems to utilities companies.

On Wednesday, he will go before a judge to face allegations that he led a criminal group that stole 16 million rubles ($516,000) worth of timber from a state-owned company in 2011-12, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

He has denied any wrongdoing, and on Friday, he joked that he would give 20 cubic meters of lumber to anybody who could find evidence for the accusation in the indictment.

Security has reportedly been beefed up at the courthouse in Kirov, about 800 kilometers east of Moscow, and city officials have sanctioned a small rally in support of Navalny to take place on Wednesday morning across from the building.

Arguably the opposition's most popular leader, Navalny has had several criminal investigations opened against him in recent months, a period that has also seen the government pass new restrictions on public demonstrations, defamatory speech, and non-governmental organizations.

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