|Intro||Russian anti-corruption activist|
|Occupations||Lawyer Lawyer Blogger Writer Human rights activist Politician|
|Birth||June 4, 1976 (Odintsovsky District)|
|Education||Finance University under the Government of the Russian Federation, Yale University, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia|
Alexei Anatolievich Navalny (Russian: Алексе́й Анато́льевич Нава́льный, Russian pronunciation: [ɐlʲɪkˈsʲej ɐnɐˈtolʲɪvʲɪtɕ nɐˈvalʲnɨj]; born June 4, 1976) is a Russian lawyer, political and financial activist, and politician. Since 2009, he has gained prominence in Russia, and in the Russian and international media, as a critic of corruption and of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has organized large-scale demonstrations promoting democracy and attacking political corruption, Putin, and Putin's political allies; he has run for a political office on the same platform. In 2012, The Wall Street Journal described him as "the man Vladimir Putin fears most".
A self-described nationalist democrat, Navalny is a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member and the leader of the political party Progress Party, formerly People's Alliance. In September 2013, he ran in the Moscow mayoral election, supported by the RPR-PARNAS party. He came in second, with 27% of the vote, losing to incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin appointee. His vote total was much higher than political analysts had expected, but Navalny and his allies insisted that the actual number was still higher, and that authorities had committed election fraud in order to prevent a runoff election from taking place.
Navalny came to prominence via his blog, hosted on the website LiveJournal, which remains his primary method of communicating with the public. He has used his blog to attack Putin and his allies, to organize political demonstrations, to post documents showing Putin and his allies to be engaged in unsavory behavior and, most recently, to promote his campaigns for office. He has also been active in other media: most notably, in a 2011 radio interview he described Russia's ruling party, United Russia, as a "party of crooks and thieves", which soon became a popular epithet.
Navalny has been arrested numerous times by Russian authorities, most seriously in 2012, when federal authorities accused him of three instances of embezzlement and fraud, all of which he denied. In July 2013, he was convicted of embezzlement and was sentenced to five years in a corrective labor colony. Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Navalny as a political prisoner. Navalny was released from prison a day after sentencing.
The prison fine was suspended in October 2013. In February 2014, Navalny and his brother were prosecuted on embezzlement charges, and Navalny was placed under house arrest and restricted from communicating with anyone but his family; he was sentenced in December 2014 with another suspended prison term of 3.5 years, and his brother received an actual 3.5-year prison sentence.
Early life and career
Navalny is of Russian and Ukrainian descent. His father Anatoliy Navalny is from Zalissia, a village in Ivankiv Raion, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine. Navalny grew up in Obninsk about 100 km southwest of Moscow, but spent his childhood summers with his grandmother in Ukraine.
Navalny graduated from the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia in 1998 with a law degree. He then studied securities and exchanges at the Finance University under the Government of the Russian Federation.
In 2008, Navalny spent around 300,000 rubles on stocks of five oil and gas companies: Rosneft, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, and Surgutneftegaz, thus becoming an activist shareholder. As such, he began to aim at making the financial properties of these companies transparent. This is required by law, but there are allegations that some of the top managers of these companies are involved in thefts and are obscuring transparency. Other activities deal with wrongdoings by Russian police, such as Sergei Magnitsky's case, improper usage of state's budget funds, quality of state services and so on.
In November 2010, Navalny published confidential documents about Transneft's auditing. According to Navalny's blog, about four billion dollars were stolen by Transneft's leaders during the construction of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline.
In December 2010, Navalny announced the launch of the RosPil project, which seeks to bring to light corrupt practices in the government procurement process. The project takes advantage of existing procurement regulation that requires all government requests for tender to be posted online. Information about winning bids must be posted online as well.
In May 2011, Navalny launched RosYama, a project which allowed individuals to report potholes and track government responses to complaints.
In August 2011, Navalny publicized papers related to a scandalous real estate deal between Hungarian and Russian governments. According to the papers, Hungary sold a former embassy building in Moscow for US$21 million to an offshore company of Viktor Vekselberg, who immediately resold it to the Russian government for $111 million. Irregularities in the paper trail implied a collusion. Three Hungarian officials responsible for the deal were detained in February 2011. It is unclear whether any official investigation was conducted on the Russian side.
In May 2012, Navalny accused Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov of corruption, stating that companies owned by Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov had transferred tens of millions of dollars to Shuvalov's company, allowing Shuvalov to share in the profit from Usmanov's purchase of the British steel company Corus. Navalny posted scans of documents to his blog showing the money transfers. Usmanov and Shuvalov stated the documents Navalny had posted were legitimate, but that the transaction had not represented a violation of Russian law. Shuvalov stated, "I unswervingly followed the rules and principles of conflict of interest. For a lawyer, this is sacred".
In July 2012, Navalny posted documents on his blog allegedly showing that Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, owned an undeclared business in the Czech Republic. The posting was described by the Financial Times as Navalny's "answering shot" for having had his emails leaked during his arrest in the previous month.
In 2000, following announcement of a new law that would raise the electoral threshold for State Duma elections, Navalny joined the Russian United Democratic Party Yabloko. According to Navalny, the law was stacked against Yabloko and Union of Right Forces, and he decided to join, even though he was not "a big fan" of either one. In 2001, he was listed as a member of the party. In 2002, he was elected to the regional council of the Moscow branch of Yabloko. In 2003, he headed the Moscow subdivision of the election campaign of the party for the parliamentary election held in December. In April 2004, Navalny became Chief of stuff of the Moscow branch of Yabloko, which he remained until February 2007. In 2004, he also became Deputy Chief of the Moscow branch of the party. In 2006–07, he was a member of the Federal Council of the party.
In August 2005, Navalny was incorporated into Social Council of Central Administrative Okrug of Moscow, created prior to the Moscow City Duma election held later that year, in which he took part as a candidate. In November, he was one of the initiators of Youth Public Chamber, intended to help younger politicians take part in legislative initiatives.
At the same time, in 2005, Navalny started another youth social movement, named "DA! – Democratic Alternative". The project was not connected to Yabloko (nor any other political party). Within the movement, Navalny participated in a number of projects. In particular, he was one of the organizers of the movement-run political debates, which soon got resonance in media. Navalny also organized television debates via state-run Moscow channel TV Center; two initial episodes showed high ratings, but the show was suddenly canceled. According to Navalny, authorities prohibited some people from receiving TV coverage.
In late 2006, Navalny appealed to the Moscow City Hall, asking to grant the permission to conduct the nationalist 2006 Russian March. He, however, added that Yabloko condemned "any ethnic or racial hatred and any xenophobia" and called on police to oppose "any Fascist, Nazi, xenophobic manifestations". Navalny was an observer during the organizing committee meetings; he was named as an organizer for the march in media, which he denied.
In July 2007, Navalny resigned from the post of Deputy Chief of Moscow branch of the party. By that moment, he had founded a nationalist movement "People" (see below). During a party council in December 2007, Navalny publicly demanded "the immediate resignation of party chairman and all his deputies, and the re-election of at least 70% of the Bureau". He was consequently expelled from Yabloko "for causing political damage to the party; in particular, for nationalist activities". Navalny declared the actual rationale beyond his exclusion was his demand of resignation by Grigory Yavlinsky, who was the leader of the party at the moment.
On June 23, 2007, Navalny co-founded a new political movement, named "People", which upheld the positions of "democratic nationalism", defined as a fight for democracy and rights of ethnic Russians; according to a Navalny's biographer, Navalny differentiates the ethnic and social aspects of the term, highlighting the latter. (In Russian, "nation" is commonly defined as a social term, while "nationality" is seen as related to ethnicity.)
In June 2008, the movement joined forces with two other Russian nationalist movements, Movement Against Illegal Immigration (MAII) and Great Russia, to form a new coalition, Russian National Movement. Navalny declared the movement would participate in the next parliamentary elections, planning to get a great share of votes; he added, "up to 60% of the population upholds spontaneous nationalism, but it is not legally effectuated". Later the same month, the MAII and People signed a cooperation agreement; at the procedure, he defined the "new political nationalism" as democratic, "fundamentally and statistically", adding, "we can teach blatant liberals a thing or two". He also declared he wanted to distance the coalition from the skinheads, calling for close collaboration with the leftists and the liberals for fair elections the coalition "would win", and demanded for political liberalization and early parliamentary elections in Russia.
In 2011, Navalny admitted the movement did not establish itself as a working structure.
Involvement in 2011 parliamentary election and 2011–13 Russian protests
According to Gennady Gudkov, Navalny was invited to participate in the elections; Navalny denied this, claiming his anti-United Russia campaign was more helpful for any other party than his immediate participation.
In December 2011, after parliamentary elections and accusations of electoral fraud, some 6,000 gathered in Moscow to protest the fraud, and some 300 were arrested including Navalny. After a period of uncertainty, Navalny was produced at court and thereafter sentenced to the maximum 15 days "for defying a government official". Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow radio station, called the arrest "a political mistake: jailing Navalny transforms him from an online leader into an offline one". Navalny was kept in the same prison as several other activists, including Ilya Yashin and Sergei Udaltsov, the unofficial leader of the Vanguard of Red Youth, a radical Russian communist youth group. Udaltsov has gone on hunger strike to protest against the conditions.
Navalny was arrested on December 5, convicted and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Since his arrest, his blog has become available in English.
In a profile published the day after his release, the BBC described Navalny as "arguably the only major opposition figure to emerge in Russia in the past five years".
On his release on December 20, Navalny called on Russians to unite against Putin, who Navalny said would try to snatch victory in the presidential election, which was held on March 4, 2012.
Navalny told reporters on his release that it would be senseless for him to run in the presidential elections because the Kremlin would not allow them to be fair. But he said that if free elections were held, he would "be ready" to run. On December 24, he helped lead a demonstration much larger than the post-election one (50,000 strong, in one Western-media account), telling to the crowd, "I see enough people to take the Kremlin right now".
In March 2012, after Putin was elected president, Navalny helped lead an anti-Putin rally in Moscow's Pushkin Square, attended by between 14,000 and 20,000 people. After the rally, Navalny was detained by authorities for several hours, then released.
On May 8, the day after Putin was inaugurated, Navalny and Udaltsov were arrested after an anti-Putin rally at Clean Ponds, and were each given 15-day jail sentences. Amnesty International designated the two men prisoners of conscience. On June 11, Moscow prosecutors conducted a 12-hour search of Navalny's home, office and a search of the apartment of one of Navalny's relatives. The searches were done as part of a broader investigation into the clashes between opposition activists and riot police which happened on May 6. Soon afterwards, some of Navalny's personal emails were posted online by a pro-government blogger.
On June 26, 2012, it was announced Navalny's comrades would establish a new political party based on e-democracy; Navalny declared he did not plan to participate in this project at the moment. On July 31, they filed a document to register an organizing committee of the future party; the party was named "People's Alliance". The party was declared to be centrist; one of then-current leaders of the party and Navalny's ally Vladimir Ashurkov explained this was intended to help the party get a large share of voters. However, at the moment, party did not have a comprehensive ideology. The party would limit the number of its members to 500. Navalny said the concept of political parties was "outdated", and added his participation would make maintaining the party more difficult. However, he "blessed" the party and discussed its maintenance with its leaders. They, in turn, stated they wanted to eventually see Navalny as a member of the party. The party planned to use the activity of its members in media and the Internet as a massive advantage. Ashurkov said he expected the party to get an official registration during spring 2013.
On December 15, 2012, the party held its founding congress; Navalny expressed support to the party, saying, "People’s Alliance is my party", but again refused to join it, citing the criminal cases against him. The party announced it planned reforms on judiciary and law enforcements, a partial transition of presidential powers to the parliament, and limiting migration into the country. On April 10, 2013, the party filed documents for the official registration of the party. On April 30, the registration of the party was suspended. The party held a second congress to correct the violations proclaimed by the Ministry of Justice. On July 5, the party was declined registration; according to Izvestia, not all founders of the party were present during the congress, even though the papers were signed by their autographs. Navalny reacted to that with a tweet saying, "[...] A salvo of all guns". (On the same day, he also spoke his last words before the Kirovles trial.) Following the mayoral election, on September 15, Navalny declared he would join and, possibly, head the party. On November 17, the party held another founding congress; Navalny was elected as the leader of the party.
In November 2013, registered party "Homeland" led by Andrei Bogdanov changed its name to "People's Alliance"; on November 30, Ministry of Justice recognized the renaming as legal. On January 8, 2014, Navalny's party filed documents for registration for a second time. On January 20, registration of the party was suspended; according to Russian laws, no two parties can share a name. On February 8, 2014, Navalny's party changed its name to "Progress Party". On February 25, the party was registered. At that moment it had six months to register regional branches in at least in half the federal subjects of Russia; the time period could be prolonged if the party was appealing from a court judgment of denial of registration of a branch in at least one subject. According to Dmitri Krainev, member of the main board of the party, the party had 15 registered regional branches on August 22, and the party informed the Ministry of Justice the term would be prolonged, citing suspension of registration or trials regarding registration of regional branches. On September 24, it informed the ministry about another prolongation of the term. On September 26, the party declared it registered 43 regional branches. An unnamed source of Izvestia in the ministry said registrations completed after the six-months term would not be taken in consideration, adding, "Yes, trials are taking place in some regions [...] they cannot register new branches in other regions during the trials, because the main term is over". Navalny's blog countered, "Our answer is simple. A six-month term for registration has been legally prolonged ad interim prosecution of appeals of denials and registration suspensions".
On October 2, 2014, the party filed documents of registration of 44 regional branches; according to Krainev, from that moment, the party should have been added to the list of structures eligible for participation in elections. The party tried to appoint candidates for municipal elections in two towns in Moscow Oblast, but was rejected the right to do so, because it was not added to the said list. After that, the party tried to challenge the non-inclusion in the list in courts; however, the standing has been supported by every next court the party addressed, with the latest being Moscow City Court on March 30, 2015. On February 1, the party held a convention, where Navalny stated the party was preparing for the 2016 elections, declaring the party would maintain its activity across Russia, saying, "We are unabashed to work in remote lands where the opposition does not work. We can even [work] in Crimea". The candidates the party would appoint were to be chosen via primary elections; however, he added, party's candidates may be removed from elections. On April 17, the party initiated a coalition of democratic parties.
On April 28, 2015, the party was deprived of registration by the Ministry of Justice, which stated the party had not registered the required number of regional branches within six months after the official registration. Krainev claimed the party could be only eliminated by the Supreme Court, and he added not all trials of registration of regional branches were over, calling the verdict "illegal twice". He added, the party would refer to the European Court of Human Rights, and expressed confidence the party would be restored and admitted to elections. The next day, the party officially challenged the verdict.
Moscow mayoral candidacy
On May 30, 2013, Sergey Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, argued an elected major is an advantage for the city compared to an appointed one, and on June 4, he announced he would meet the President Vladimir Putin and ask him for a snap election, mentioning the Muscovites would agree the governor elections should take place in the city of Moscow and the surrounding Moscow Oblast simultaneously. On June 6, the request was granted, and the next day, the Moscow City Duma appointed the election on September 8, the national voting day.
On June 3, Navalny announced he would run for the post. To become an official candidate, he would need either seventy thousand signatures of Muscovites or to be pegged for the office by a registered party, and then to collect 110 signatures of municipal deputies from 110 different subdivisions (three quarters of Moscow's 146). Navalny chose to be pegged by a party, RPR-PARNAS (which did peg him, but this move sharpened relations within the party; after one of its three co-chairmen and the original founder, Vladimir Ryzhkov, had left the party, he said this had been one of the signs the party was "being stolen from him"). Among the six candidates who were officially registered as such, only two (Sobyanin and Communist Ivan Melnikov) were able to collect the required number of the signatures themselves, and the other four were given a number of signatures by the Council of Municipal Formations, following a recommendation by Sobyanin, to overcome the requirement (Navalny accepted 49 signatures, and other candidates accepted 70, 70, and 82 ones).
On July 17, Navalny was registered as one of the six candidates for the Moscow mayoral election. However, on July 18, he was sentenced for a five-year prison term for the embezzlement and fraud charges that were declared in 2012. Several hours after his sentencing, he pulled out of the race and called for a boycott of the election. However, later that day, the prosecution office requested the accused should be freed on bail and travel restrictions, since the verdict had not yet taken legal effect, saying they had previously followed the restrictions, Navalny was a mayoral candidate, and an imprisonment would thus not comply with his rule for equal access to the electorate. On his return to Moscow after being freed pending an appeal, he vowed to stay in the race. The Washington Post has speculated that his release was ordered by the Kremlin in order to make the election and Sobyanin appear more legitimate.
|August 29–September 2||60.1%||21.9%|
|June 27–July 3||77.9%||10.8%|
Navalny's campaign was based mainly on fundraising: out of 103.4 million rubles (approximately $3.09 million as of the election day), the total size of his electoral fund, 97.3 million ($2.91 million) were transferred by individuals throughout Russia; such a number is unprecedented in Russia. It achieved a high profile through an unprecedentedly large campaign organization that involved around 20,000 volunteers who passed out leaflets and hung banners, as well as several campaign rallies a day around the city; they were the main driving force for the campaign. The New Yorker described the resulted campaign as "a miracle", along with Navalny's release on July 19, the fundraising campaign, and the personality of Navalny himself. The campaign received very little television coverage and did not utilize billboards. Thanks to Navalny's strong campaign (and Sobyanin's weak one), his result grew over time, weakening Sobyanin's, and in the end of the campaign, he declared the runoff election (to be conducted in none of the candidates receives at least 50% of votes) was "a hair's breadth away".
The largest sociological companies predicted (Levada Center was the only one not to have made any predictions; the data it had on August 28, however, falls in line with other companies') Sobyanin would win the election, scoring 58% to 64% of the vote; they expected Navalny to receive 15–20% of the vote, and the turnout was to be 45–52%. The final results of the voting showed Navalny received 27.24% of the vote, more than candidates appointed by the parties that received second, third, fourth, and fifth highest results during the 2011 parliamentary elections, altogether. Navalny fared better in the center and southwest of Moscow, which have higher income and education levels. However, Sobyanin received 51.37% of the vote, which meant he won the election. The turnout was 32.03%. The companies explained the differences arose from the fact Sobyanin's electorate did not vote, feeling their candidate was guaranteed to win. Navalny's campaign office's measures predicted Sobyanin would score 49–51%, and Navalny would get 24–26% of votes.
Many experts claimed the election had been fair, the number of irregularities was much lower than those of other elections held within the country, and the irregularities had had little affect on the result. Dmitri Abyzalov, leading expert of Center of Political Conjuncture, added low turnout figures provide a further sign of fairness of the election, because that shows they were not overestimated. However, according to Andrei Buzin, co-chairman of the GOLOS Association, State Departments of Social Security added people who did not originally want to vote to lists of those who would vote at home, with the number of such voters being 4.5% of those who voted, and added this did cause questions if Sobyanin would score 50% if this did not take place. Dmitry Oreshkin, leader of the "People's election commission" project (who did a separate counting based on the data from election observers; their result for Sobyanin was 49.7%), said now that the runoff election was only 1.5% away, all details would be looked at very closely, and added it was impossible to prove "anything" juridically.
On September 9, the day following the election, Navalny publicly denounced the tally, saying, "We do not recognize the results. They are fake". Sobyanin's office rejected an offer of a vote recount. On September 12, Navalny addressed the Moscow City Court to overturn the result of the poll; the court rejected the assertion. Navalny then challenged the decision in the Supreme Court of Russia, but the court recognized the result of the election to be legit.
RPR-PARNAS and democratic coalition
Following the mayoral election, Navalny was offered a position of a fourth co-chairman of RPR-PARNAS. However, Navalny made no public reaction.
In early 2014, Russia's political landscape changed dramatically: Following the Euromaidan demonstrations and civil unrest in Kiev, which resulted in establishment of a new pro-EU president and government, a countering wave of protests and civil unrest started in Southern and Eastern Ukraine, and in Crimea, a "volunteer force of self-defense of Crimea" announced a referendum, the question for which eventually was, whether Crimea should join the Russian Federation or not. (Later, Putin publicly declared the self-defense forces were composed of Russian military.) Following the referendum, Crimea de facto became a part of Russia. The sociological center marked the fact Putin's rating was skyrocketing: it was just 29% (among all respondents, including those who were unsure or would not vote) in January 2014, but rose to 49% in April 2014, a figure that would transform to 81% if those who were unsure or not willing to vote were excluded.
On November 14, 2014, the two remaining RPR-PARNAS co-chairmen, Boris Nemtsov and former Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Kasyanov, declared it was the right moment to create a wide coalition of political forces, who favor the "European choice"; Navalny's Progress Party was seen as one of the potential participants. However, on February 27, 2015, Nemtsov was shot dead. Prior to his assassination, Nemtsov worked on a project of a coalition (in which Navalny and Khodorkovsky would become co-chairmen of RPR-PARNAS; Navalny declared merging parties would invoke bureaucratic difficulties and question the legitimacy of party's right to participate in federal elections without signatures collecting); the murder accelerated the work, and on April 17, Navalny declared a wide discussion had taken place among Progress Party, RPR-PARNAS, and other closely aligned parties, which resulted in an agreement of formation of a new electoral bloc between the two leaders. Soon thereafter, it was signed by four other parties and supported by Khodorkovsky's Open Russia foundation. Electoral blocs are not present within the current law system of Russia, so it would be realized via means of a single party, RPR-PARNAS, which is not only eligible for participation in statewide elections, but is also currently not required to collect citizens' signatures for the right to participate in the State Duma elections scheduled for September 2016 thanks to the regional parliament mandate previously taken by Nemtsov. The candidates RPR-PARNAS would appoint were to be chosen via primary elections.
The coalition claimed to have collected enough citizens' signatures for registration in the four regions it originally aimed for. However, in one region, the coalition would declare some signatures and personal data have been altered by malevolent collectors; signatures in the other regions have been rejected by regional election commissions. Сomplaints have been issued to the Central Election Commission of Russia, after which the coalition has been registered as a participant in a regional election in one of the three contested regions, Kostroma Oblast. According to a source of Gazeta.ru "close to the Kremlin", the presidential administration saw coalition's chances as very low, yet was wary, but the restoration in one region occurred so PARNAS could "score a consolation goal". According to the official election results, the coalition scored 2.28% of votes, not enough to overcome the 5% threshold; the party admitted the election was lost.
On July 30, 2012, the Investigative Committee charged Navalny with embezzlement. The committee stated that he had conspired to steal timber from Kirovles, a state-owned company in Kirov Oblast, in 2009, while acting as an adviser to Kirov's governor Nikita Belykh. Investigators had closed a previous probe into the claims for lack of evidence. Navalny was released on his own recognizance but instructed not to leave Moscow.
Navalny described the charges as "weird" and unfounded. He stated that authorities "are doing it to watch the reaction of the protest movement and of Western public opinion [...] So far they consider both of these things acceptable and so they are continuing along this line". His supporters protested before the Investigative Committee offices.
In April 2013, Loeb&Loeb LLP issued "An Analysis of the Russian Federation's prosecutions of Alexei Navalny", a paper detailing Investigative Committee accusations. The paper concludes that "the Kremlin has reverted to misuse of the Russian legal system to harass, isolate and attempt to silence political opponents".
Conviction and release
The Kirovles trial commenced in the city of Kirov on April 17, 2013. On July 18, Navalny was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. He was found guilty in misappropriating about 16 million rubles ($500,000) worth of lumber from a state-owned company. The sentence read by the judge Sergey Blinov was textually the same as the request of the prosecutor, with the only exception that Navalny was given five years, and the prosecution requested six years.
Later that evening, the Prosecutor's Office appealed the sentence in the part which prescribed Navalny and Ofitserov to be jailed, arguing that until the higher court affirmed the sentence, the sentence was not valid. Next morning, the appeal was granted. Navalny and Ofitserov were released on July 19, awaiting the hearings of the higher court. The prosecutor's request decision was described "unprecedented" by experts.
On 23 February 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated Navalny's right to a fair trial, and ordered the government to pay him 56,000 euros in legal costs and damages.
On 16 November 2016, Russia's Supreme Court overturned the 2013 sentence, sending the verdict back to the Leninsky District Court in Kirov for review.
The prison sentence was suspended by a court in Kirov in October 16, 2013, still being a burden for his political future.
Yves Rocher case and home arrest
In 2008, Oleg Navalny made an offer to Yves Rocher Vostok, the Eastern European subsidiary of Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012, to accredit Glavpodpiska, which was created by Alexei Navalny, with delivering duties. On August 5, the parties signed a contract. To fulfill the obligations under the agreement, Glavpodpiska outsourced the task to sub-suppliers, AvtoSAGA and Multiprofile Processing Company (MPC). In November and December 2012, the Investigating Committee interrogated and questioned Yves Rocher Vostok. On December 10, Bruno Leproux, general director of Yves Rocher Vostok, filed to the Investigative Committee, asking to investigate if the Glavpodpiska subscription company had damaged Yves Rocher Vostok, and the Investigative Committee initiated a case.
The prosecution claimed Glavpodpiska embezzled money by taking duties and then redistributing them to other companies for lesser amounts of money, and collecting the surplus: 26.7 million rubles ($540,000) from Yves Rocher Vostok, and 4.4 million rubles from the MPC. The funds were claimed to be subsequently legalized by transferring them on fictitious grounds from a fly-by-night company to Kobyakovskaya Fabrika Po Lozopleteniyu, a willow weaving company founded by Navalny and operated by his parents. Navalnys denied the charges. The brothers' lawyers claimed, the investigators "added phrases like 'bearing criminal intentions' to a description of regular entrepreneurial activity". According to Oleg Navalny's lawyer, Glavpodpiska did not just collect money, it controlled provision of means of transport, execution of orders, collected and expedited production to the carriers, and was responsible before clients for terms and quality of executing orders.
Yves Rocher denied that they had any losses, as did the rest of the witnesses, except the Multiprofile Processing Company CEO Sergei Shustov, who said he had learned about his losses from an investigator and believed him, without making audits. Both brothers and their lawyers claimed Alexei Navalny did not participate in the Gladpodpiska operations, and witnesses all claimed they had never encountered Alexei Navalny in person before the trial.
Home arrest and limitations
Following the imputed violation of travel restrictions, Navalny was placed under house arrest and prohibited from communicating with anyone other than his family, lawyers, and investigators on February 28, 2014. Navalny claimed the arrest was politically motivated, and he filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. On July 7, he declared the complaint had been accepted and given priority; the court compelled the Government of Russia to provide answers to a questionnaire.
The home arrest, in particular, prohibited usage of Internet; however, new posts were released under his social media accounts after the arrest was announced. A March 5 post claimed the accounts were controlled by his Anti-Corruption Foundation teammates and his wife Yulia. On March 13, his LiveJournal blog was blocked in Russia, because, according to the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), "functioning of the given web page breaks the regulation of the juridical decision of the bail hearing of a citizen, against who a criminal case has been initiated". Navalny's associates started a new blog, navalny.com, and the LiveJournal blog was eventually abolished, with the last post published on July 9.
The home arrest was lightened a number of times: On August 21, Navalny was allowed to communicate with his co-defendants; a journalist present in the courthouse at the moment confirmed Navalny was allowed to communicate with "anyone but the Yves Rocher case witnesses". On October 10, his right of communication with press was confirmed by another court, and he was allowed to make comments on the case in media (Navalny's plea not to prolong the arrest was, however, rejected), and on December 19, he was allowed to mail correspondence to authorities and international courts. Navalny again pleaded not to prolong the arrest, but the plea again was rejected.
The verdict was announced on December 30, 2014. Alexei Navalny was given 3.5 years of suspended sentence, whereas Oleg Navalny was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and was arrested after the verdict was announced; both had to pay a fine of 500,000 rubles and a compensation to the Multiprofile Processing Company of over 4 million rubles. In the evening, several thousands protesters gathered in the center of Moscow. Navalny broke his home arrest to attend the rally; he was immediately arrested by the police and brought back home.
Both brothers filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights: Oleg's was communicated and given priority; Alexei's was reviewed in the context of the previous complaint related to this case, and the Government of Russia had been "invited to submit further observations". The second instance within the country confirmed the verdict, only releasing Alexei from the responsibility to pay his fine. Both prosecutors and defendants were not satisfied with this decision.
After the Yves Rocher case, Navalny had to pay a compensation of 4.4 million rubles. He declared the case was "framed up", but he added he would pay the sum as this could affect granting his brother a parole. October 7, 2015, Alexei's lawyer announced the defendant willfully paid 2.9 million, and requested an installment plan for the rest of the sum. The request was granted, except the term was contracted from the requested five months to two, and a part of the sum declared paid (900,000 rubles; arrested from Navalny's banking account) was not yet received by the police; the prosecutors declared that may happen because of inter-process delays.
Later that month, Kirovles sued Navalny for the 16.1 million rubles declared pecuniary injury; Navalny declared he had not expected the suit, as Kirovles did not initiate it during the 2012–13 trial. On October 23, a court resolved the said sum should be paid by the three defendants. The court denied the defendants' motion 14.7 million had already been paid that point; the verdict and the payment sum were justified by a ruling by a Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Navalny declared he could not cover the requested sum; he called the suit a "drain-dry strategy" by authorities.
In late December 2012, Russia's federal Investigative Committee asserted that Allekt, an advertising company headed by Navalny, defrauded the Union of Right Forces (SPS) political party in 2007 by taking 100 million rubles ($3.2 million) payment for advertising and failing to honor its contract. If charged and convicted, Navalny could be jailed for up to 10 years. "Nothing of the sort happened – he committed no robbery", Leonid Gozman, a former SPS official, was quoted as saying. Earlier in December, "the Investigative Committee charged [...] Navalny and his brother Oleg with embezzling 55 million rubles ($1.76 million) in 2008–2011 while working in a postal business". Navalny, who denied the allegations in the two previous cases, sought to laugh off news of the third inquiry with a tweet stating "Fiddlesticks [...]".
In February 2011, in an interview with the radio station finam.fm, Navalny called the main Russian party, United Russia, a "party of crooks and thieves". In May 2011, the Russian government began criminal investigation into Navalny, widely described in Western media as "revenge" and by Navalny himself as "a fabrication by the security services". Meanwhile, "crooks and thieves" became a popular nickname for the party.
On June 4, 2012, Navalny was ordered by Moscow's Lyublinsky District Court to pay 30,000 rubles ($900) as compensation for "moral harm" to United Russia State Duma Deputy Vladimir Svirid, after Svirid filed charges against Navalny for comments he made in an article written for Esquire magazine about the United Russia party: "In United Russia, there are people I come across that I generally like. But if you have joined United Russia, you are still a thief. And if you are not a thief, then you are a crook, because you use your name to cover the rest of the thieves and crooks." Svirid had originally sought one million rubles in the case.
On April 4, 2013, Navalny announced his intention to run for the presidency. Navalny described his presidential program as "not to lie and not to steal".
In 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War, Navalny called Georgians rodents (Russian: грызуны) and further stated that he very much wanted to strike their General Staff with a cruise missile. In response to criticism, in 2013 Navalny said that he regretted calling Georgians rodents but stood by everything else he said at the time.
In 2011, Navalny stated he considered himself a "nationalist democrat". International media have often commented on his ambiguous but non-condemnatory stance toward ethnic Russian nationalism. The BBC noted in a profile of Navalny that his endorsement of a political campaign called "Stop feeding the Caucasus" and his willingness to speak at ultra-nationalist events "have caused concern among liberals". He also has been a co-organizer of the "Russian March", which Radio Free Europe describes as "a parade uniting Russian nationalist groups of all stripes", and has appeared as a speaker alongside Russian neo-Nazis.
Navalny is agitating on behalf of aggressive anti-immigration policies.
Navalny once compared dark-skinned Caucasus militants with cockroaches and made a video about it. "Cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, but as for humans, I recommend a pistol." Navalny's defenders suggested the comment was simply a joke. It has also been debated whether or not Navalny's ethnic nationalism is a populist strategy or arises from his real convictions.
Early in 2012, Navalny stated on Ukrainian TV, "Russian foreign policy should be maximally directed at integration with Ukraine and Belarus… In fact, we are one nation. We should enhance integration." During the same broadcast Navalny said that he did not intend "to prove that the Ukrainian nation does not exist. God willing, it does". He added, "No one wants to make an attempt to limit Ukraine's sovereignty". In October 2014, Navalny stated "I do not see any kind of difference at all between Russians and Ukrainians", he admitted that his views might provoke "horrible indignation" in Ukraine. In 2015, he declared, "I do not take Ukrainians for a special sort of Russians and [I] do not deny the Ukrainian nation from its political subjectivity".
He also said that Russian government should stop "sponsoring the war" in Donbass. Navalny has strongly criticized Vladimir Putin's policies in Ukraine: "Putin likes to speak about the 'Russian world' but he is actually making it smaller. In Belarus, they sing anti-Putin songs at football stadiums; in Ukraine they simply hate us. In Ukraine now, there are no politicians who do not have extreme anti-Russian positions. Being anti-Russian is the key to success now in Ukraine, and that is our fault".
In March 2014, Navalny declared that he did not support Russia's annexation of Crimea. According to The Moscow Times, "Navalny suggested that Kiev should grant Crimea greater autonomy while remaining part of Ukraine, guarantee the right to speak Russian in Ukraine, keep Ukraine out of NATO, and let the Russian Black Sea fleet remain in the peninsula free of charge". In October 2014, Navalny stated in an interview by Echo of Moscow that he would not return Crimea to Ukraine if he were to become the president of Russia but that "a normal referendum" should be held in Crimea to decide what country the peninsula belongs to.
In October 2010, Navalny was the decisive winner of on-line "Mayor of Moscow elections" held by Kommersant and Gazeta.ru. He received about 30,000 votes, or 45%, with the closest rival being "Against all candidates" with some 9,000 votes (14%), followed by former First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Boris Nemtsov with 8,000 votes (12%) out of a total of about 67,000 votes.
The reaction to Navalny's mayoral election result in 2013 was mixed: Nezavisimaya Gazeta declared, "The voting campaign turned a blogger into a politician", and following an October 2013 Levada Center poll that showed Navalny made it to the list of potential presidential candidates among Russians, receiving a rating of 5%, Konstantin Kalachev, the leader of the Political Expert Group, declared 5% was not the limit for Navalny, and unless something extraordinary happened, he could become "a pretender for a second place in the presidential race". On the other hand, The Washington Post published a column by Milan Svolik that stated the election was fair so the Sobyanin could show a clean victory, demoralizing the opposition, which could otherwise run for street protests. Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated on September 12, "His momentary result cannot testify his political equipment and does not speak of him as of a serious politician".
When referring to Navalny, Putin never actually pronounced his name, referring to him as a "mister" or the like; journalist Julia Ioffe took it for a sign of weakness before the opposition politician, and Peskov later stated Putin never pronounced his name in order not to "give [Navalny] a part of his popularity". In July 2015, Bloomberg's sources "familiar with the matter" declared there was an informal prohibition from the Kremlin for senior Russian officials from mentioning Navalny's name. Peskov rejected the assumption there is such a ban; however, in doing so, he did not mention Navalny's name either.
Ratings of approval
According to polls conducted by the Levada Center, Navalny's recognition among the Russian population stood at 37% as of April 2013. Out of those who were able to recognize Navalny, 14% would either "definitely" or "probably" support his presidential run.
The same pollster showed Navalny's presidential ratings in March and April 2014 were 1% and "<1%".
Within Russia, reaction to Navalny's criminal cases varied with political views of commentators: Those who supported Navalny and/or his activities generally declared he was not guilty, while his political opponents generally claimed the opposite.
During and after the Kirovles trial, a number of prominent people expressed support to Navalny and/or condemned the trial. The last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called it "proof that we do not have independent courts". Former Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin stated that it was "looking less like a punishment than an attempt to isolate him from social life and the electoral process". It was also criticized by novelist Boris Akunin, and jailed Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who called it similar to the treatment of political opponents during the Soviet era.
Other prominent Russians had different reactions: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist LDPR, called the verdict "a direct warning to our 'fifth column'", and added, "This will be the fate of everyone who is connected with the West and works against Russia". Duma Vice-Speaker Igor Lebedev stated that he did not understand the "fuss about an ordinary case". He added, "If you are guilty before the law, then whoever you were – a janitor, a homeless man or a president – you have to answer for your crimes in full accordance with the Criminal Code."
A variety of officials from the Western countries condemned the verdict. United States Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf stated that the United States was "very disappointed by the conviction and sentencing of opposition leader Aleksey Navalniy". The spokesperson for European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton said that the outcome of the trial "raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia". Andreas Schockenhoff, Germany's Commissioner for German-Russian Coordination, stated, "For us, it's further proof of authoritarian policy in Russia, which doesn't allow diversity and pluralism". Western media were also critical: in particular, The New York Times proclaimed in response to the verdict, "President Vladimir Putin of Russia actually seems weak and insecure". However, The Independent published a column headed, "Alexei Navalny's conviction isn't proof that Putin is too strong - rather it shows the opposition is too weak".
The verdict in the case of Yves Rocher caused similar reactions. According to Alexei Venediktov, the verdict was "unfair", Oleg Navalny was taken "hostage", while Alexei was not jailed to avoid "furious reaction" from Putin, which was caused by the change of measure of restraint after the Kirovles trial. A number of deputies appointed by United Russia and LDPR found the verdict too mild. Experts interrogated by BBC Russian Service expressed reactions close to the political positions their organizations generally stand on. The spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated the same day that the sentence was likely to be politically motivated.
Public opinion varied over time: According to Levada Center, 20% of people thought the Kirovles case had been caused by an actual violation of law, while 54% agreed the rationale beyond the case was his anti-corruption activity in May 2011. In May 2013, the shares of people who held these opinions were 28% and 47%, correspondingly; however, in September 2013, the shares were 35% and 45%. The organization suggested this had been caused by corresponding coverage in media. By September 2014, the percentages had undergone further changes, and equaled 37% and 38%. The center also stated the share of those who found the result of another criminal case against him was unfair and Navalny was not guilty dropped from 13% in July 2013 to 5% in January 2015, and the number of those who found the verdict was too tough also fell from 17% to 9%. The share of those who found the verdict to be either fair or too mild was 26% in July 2013, and has exceeded 35% since September 2013.
Awards and honors
Navalny was named "Person of the Year 2009" by Russian business newspaper Vedomosti.
Navalny was a World Fellow at Yale University's World Fellows Program, aimed at "creating a global network of emerging leaders and to broaden international understanding" in 2010.
In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine named Navalny to the FP Top 100 Global Thinkers, along with Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Sami Ben Gharbia of Tunisia, for "shaping the new world of government transparency". FP picked him again in 2012. He was listed by Time magazine in 2012 as one of the world's 100 most influential people, the only Russian on the list. In 2013, Navalny came in at No. 48 among "world thinkers" in an online poll by the UK magazine Prospect.
In 2015, Alexei and Oleg Navalny were chosen to receive the "Prize of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience 2015". According to the Platform's statement, "The Members of the Platform have voted this year for the Navalny brothers, in recognition of their personal courage, struggle and sacrifices for upholding fundamental democratic values and freedoms in the Russian Federation today. By the award of the Prize, the Platform wishes to express its respect and support to Mr Oleg Navalny whom the Platform considers a political prisoner and to Mr Alexei Navalny for his efforts to expose corruption, defend political pluralism and opposition to the mounting authoritarian regime in the Russian Federation".
Navalny is married to Yulia Navalnaya and has two children.