Russian court hands Kremlin foe Navalny 5-year suspended sentence

A court has found a prominent anti-corruption campaigner and Kremlin critic, Alexei Navalny, guilty of embezzlement, now apparently blocked from campaigning in next year's presidential election.
Interfax news agency reported that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of embezzlement.
Interfax news agency reported that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of embezzlement. PHOTO: REUTERS

KIROV/MOSCOW, Russia (REUTERS, AFP) - A Russian court on Wednesday (Feb 8) handed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny a five-year suspended sentence that could end his bid to challenge President Vladimir Putin in 2018 polls.

The judge at a court in the provincial city of Kirov found Navalny guilty of embezzlement, giving him a five-year suspended sentence and his co-defendant a four-year suspended sentence in a retrial that repeated the outcome of a 2013 trial. 

Each was also fined 500,000 rubles (S$11,954). 

Navalny on Wednesday pledged to press on with his campaign for president ahead of the polls. Late last year he announced his plan to run for president in 2018, when Vladimir Putin's current term expires. Under Russian law, he would be banned from running for 10 years if convicted of a serious crime.

“According to the constitution I have a full right to take part in the elections and I will do that, I will continue to represent the interests of people who want to see Russia a normal, honest and non-corrupt country,” he told journalists.

The opposition leader says the prosecution is aimed at barring him from political activity. The Kremlin denies that.

Asked if Navalny's absence from the presidential race would undermine the legitimacy of the election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier on Wednesday: "We believe any concerns about this are inappropriate."