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Russian politician sentenced to five years' prison for embezzlement

July 18, 2013

Under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has developed a reputation for being unfriendly to those who oppose the government's prevailing political attitudes. This is exemplified in the recent arrest, trial and conviction of Alexei Navalny, an activist who spoke out in protest against corrupt practices in various Russian state-controlled businesses. On July 18, Navalny received a prison sentence of five years after being convicted of embezzlement. The reactions of many in the Russian activist community are likely to dominate the phone conversations they conduct using prepaid phone cards.

The Guardian reported that Navalny reacted to his sentencing with a witty message on his Twitter account, which currently has approximately 373,000 followers, saying, "OK. Don't get bored here without me. And most importantly - don't dawdle, the frog won't jump from the oil pipes itself."

The anti-corruption activist received the prison term for embezzling 16 million rubles - just over $493,000 in United States dollars - while advising the governor of the Kirov region in Russia and dealing with a timber business. Navalny's co-defendant in the case, Petr Ofitserov, was sentenced to four years. 

According to The Globe and Mail, Navalny - who is presently registered to run for mayor in Moscow in the upcoming September elections - first positioned himself on the Russian political stage in 2011, during protests against the parliamentary elections. Many believed them to be fraudulent, including Navalny, who referred to Putin's United Russia party as the "party of crooks and thieves." The Russian president's return to office in 2012 further enraged Navalny, largely due to the many restrictions Putin's administration imposed on free speech, Internet use and expression, homosexuality and other beliefs and behaviors characterized as "non-traditional."

Thousands of Russian protesters gathered near the Kremlin to rail against the verdict - the result of a Facebook page petition that prompted 10,000 to sign up.

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