Alexei Navalny’s five-year prison sentence on fabricated charges removes Vladimir Putin’s last political opponent from the scene. Navalny was charged with stealing a small amount of money during the course of giving pro-bono legal advice to a regional government on the sale of timber.
Navalny, the charismatic anti-corruption blogger and activist, was one of the key organizers of anti-Putin demonstrations following the disputed parliamentary and presidential elections of December 2011 and March 2012. He had been a thorn in the side of the Putin machine by exposing its high-level corruption on his blog, which is followed by millions of Russians. He was indicted by Putin’s Investigative Committee – an extrajudicial body that works like the troikas of the Stalin era. Among those exposed by Navalny for the theft of billions were the very members of the Investigative Committee that indicted him. Navalny coined the term widely applied by the Russian people to Putin’s United Russia, as the “party of thieves and scoundrels.”