|All Sources > The Current Digest of the Russian Press (DA-CDRP) > The Current Digest of the Russian Press > 2016 > No. 46, Vol. 68|
A PECULIAR THAW
Author: Ola Cichowlas
(By Ola Cichowlas. The Moscow Times, Nov. 17, 2016, p. 2. Condensed text:) The Russian opposition woke up to a surprise on the morning of Nov. 16. Moscow’s Supreme Court unexpectedly scrapped opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s criminal conviction, and sent his case for a retrial.
Convicting Navalny was the Kremlin’s way of stopping him from taking part in any national elections. The Supreme Court’s decision has opened the - until now unthinkable - prospect of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s main political foe running for president in 2018.
The news was, unsurprisingly, met with suspicion in opposition circles.
Back in 2013, Navalny was charged with stealing timber from a state-owned corporation in the provincial city of Kirov [see Current Digest, Vol. 65, No. 29, pp. 5 - 9]. The trial was largely condemned as politically motivated: it came just two months after [sic; before - Trans.] the Moscow mayoral election, in which Navalny won 30% of the vote against a Kremlin loyalist.
As part of another case a year later, Navalny and his brother Oleg were convicted of embezzling 30 million rubles ($460,000). Navalny was given a suspended sentence, but his brother was sent to three and a half years in prison [see Current Digest, Vol. 67, No. 1 - 3, pp. 10 - 12]. Human rights organizations again condemned the sentence as a Soviet-style tactic to silence dissent by holding relatives hostage. This second conviction did not, however, legally stop Navalny from running for office. It was the earlier Kirov conviction that blocked him from registering as a candidate.
While dramatic arrests would indicate a continuation of authoritarian rule, there have been some indications that the Kremlin might be considering loosening its grip on some aspects of political life. The appointment of a new head of domestic policy, Sergei Kiriyenko, with his reputation as a progressive Western-minded liberal, was ...