Alexei Navalny in 2013
|Born||Alexei Anatolievich Navalny
4 June 1976
Butyn, Odintsovsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Peoples' Friendship University of Russia
Finance University under the Government of the Russian Federation
|Occupation||Lawyer, activist, politician|
|Organization||The Anti-Corruption Foundation|
|Known for||Political and social activism, blogging|
|Movement||Russian Opposition Coordination Council
various liberal, civic nationalist and national democrat organizations
|Opponent(s)||Vladimir Putin and United Russia party|
Board member of
|Awards||Yale World Fellow (2010)|
recorded August 2013
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Alexei Anatolievich Navalny (Russian: Алексе́й Анато́льевич Нава́льный, Russian pronunciation: [ɐlʲɪkˈsʲej ɐnɐˈtolʲɪvʲɪtɕ nɐˈvalʲnɨj]), born 4 June 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; and has run for 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 registered Russian political party Progress Party (Russian: Партия прогресса), formerly People's Alliance (Russian: Народный Альянс).[not in citation given] 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.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 Early activism
- 3 Involvement in 2011 Russian legislative election
- 4 Involvement in 2012 Russian presidential election
- 5 Post-2012-election government battles
- 6 2012 embezzlement and fraud charges
- 7 October 2012 arrest
- 8 Presidential candidacy
- 9 2013 mayoral candidacy
- 10 2014 charges and conviction
- 11 Russian nationalism
- 12 2015 Arrest and release
- 13 Family
- 14 Awards and honours
- 15 See also
- 16 References
- 17 External links
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 2000, Navalny joined the Russian United Democratic Party "Yabloko", where he was a member of the Federal Political Council of the party. In 2002, he was elected to the regional council of the Moscow branch of Yabloko.
As acting Deputy Chief of the Moscow branch of Yabloko, Navalny stated that the party supported the nationalist 2006 Russian March but that Yabloko condemned "any ethnic or racial hatred and any xenophobia" and called on police to oppose "any Fascist, Nazi, xenophobic manifestations". The march was widely opposed by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and the Russian Jewish community headed by rabbi Berel Lazar, and participation from the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (the main organizer of the rally), the Eurasian Youth Union, the Communist Youth Vanguard, the National State Party of Russia, the National Patriotic Front "Memory", the "Truth" Community, the Russian National Union, the Russian Social Movement and the "Russian Order" Movement.
In December 2007, a meeting was held by the Bureau of the "Yabloko" party, on the issue of Navalny's exclusion from the party, with demands of "the immediate resignation of party chairman and all his deputies, and the re-election of at least 70% of the Bureau." Navalny was consequently expelled from Yabloko "for causing political damage to the party; in particular, for nationalist activities."
Navalny is a minor stockholder in several major Russian state-related corporations and some of his activities are aimed 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 October 2010, Navalny was the decisive winner of virtual "Mayor of Moscow elections" held in the Russian Internet 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 Boris Nemtsov with 8,000 votes (12%) out of a total of about 67,000 votes.
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 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.
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 V. Vekselberg, who immediately resold it to the Russian government for US$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.
Involvement in 2011 Russian legislative election
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 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 5 December 2011, convicted and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Since his arrest, his blog has become available in English. On 7 December, President Dmitry Medvedev's official Twitter account retweeted a statement by United Russia member Konstantin Rykov which claimed that "a person who writes in their blog the words 'party of crooks and thieves' is a stupid, c*cksucking sheep". This retweet was quickly deleted and described as a mistake by the Kremlin, but garnered wide attention in the Russian blogosphere.
Involvement in 2012 Russian presidential election
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. He then on 24 December helped lead a demonstration much larger than the post-election one (50,000 strong, in one Western-media account), telling the "wildly cheering crowd": "I see enough people to take the Kremlin right now."
Post-2012-election government battles
In March, 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 8 May, the day after Putin was inaugurated, Navalny and another opposition leader, Sergei Udaltsov, were arrested after an anti-Putin rally at Clean Ponds, and were each given 15-day jail sentences. In response, Amnesty International designated the two men prisoners of conscience. On 11 June 2012, 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 the 6 May. Soon afterward, some of Navalny's personal emails were posted online by a pro-government blogger.
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 US 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."
On 4 June 2012, Navalny was ordered by Moscow's Lyublinsky District Court to pay 30,000 rubles (about US$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.
In July 2012, Navalny posted documents on his blog allegedly showing that Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of Russia (SK) and a Putin ally, 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.
2012 embezzlement and fraud charges
On 30 July 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 SK offices.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted that "We should be concerned with attempts in Russia to silence fierce opposition activist Alexei Navalny." The New York Times called it "the Kremlin's most direct measure to date against a leader of the protest movement that erupted here in December" and suggested that "the Kremlin's eagerness to limit Mr. Navalny's impact now outweighs the risk of a political backlash". Al Jazeera described the charge as part of a broader trend of cracking down on dissent, connecting it to a recent bill in the Russian parliament to substantially increase fines on unauthorized protests and the trial of three members of the feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot.
In late December 2012, Russia's federal Investigative Committee asserted that Allekt, an advertising company headed by Navalny, defrauded the Union of the Right Forces (SPS) political party in 2007 by taking $3.2m (ruble equivalent) 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 55m roubles [US$1.76m] in 2008–11 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 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".
The KirovLes trial commenced in the city of Kirov on 17 April 2013. On 18 July 2013, Navalny was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. Navalny was found guilty in misappropriating about 16 million rubles (US$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.
Navalny's wife Yulia Navalnaya stated that "if someone hopes Alexei's investigations will cease, that's not the case ... We will win."
Navalny's arrest was criticized by a number of prominent Russians, including the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who called it "proof that we do not have independent courts", and former Finance Minister and close Putin ally Aleksei Kudrin, who 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 continued "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 didn't understand the "fuss about an ordinary case". He added that "If you're 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 countries and international organizations condemned the verdict. United States Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf stated that the US was "very disappointed by the conviction and sentencing of opposition leader Aleksey Navalniy." The US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, followed up by stating that the trial had "apparent political motivations". A 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."
In the evening after the sentencing 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 is not valid. Next morning, the appeal was granted. Navalny and Ofitserov were released on 19 July 2013 awaiting the hearings of the higher court. The prosecutor's request decision was described "unprecedented" by experts.
The prison sentence was suspended by a court in Kirov in 16 October 2013, still being a burden for his political future.
October 2012 arrest
Following the alleged kidnapping and torture of opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev from Kiev, Ukraine, Navalny was arrested along with Sergei Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin while attempting to join a Moscow protest on Razvozzhayev's behalf on 27 October 2012. The three were charged with violating public order, for which they could be fined up to 30,000 rubles (US$900) or given 50 hours of community service.
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 recognize Navalny, 14% would either "definitely" or "probably" support his presidential run.
2013 mayoral candidacy
On 17 July 2013, the day before he was sentenced for the 2012 embezzlement and fraud charges, Navalny was registered as a candidate (one of six) for the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. The election was Moscow's first since 2004, as a result of shifting rules in which the mayor of Moscow became directly appointed by the Kremlin, then went back to being a democratically elected position. Current mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin appointee, was the frontrunner throughout the election.
Several hours after his sentencing, he pulled out of the race and called for a boycott of the election. However, upon his return to Moscow after being freed pending an appeal, he vowed to stay in the race. It is speculated that his release was ordered by the Kremlin in order to make the mayoral election, and Sobyanin, appear more legitimate.
Navalny focused his campaign not on Sobyanin or any of the other candidates, but on criticizing Vladimir Putin directly. His campaign received very little television coverage, but nonetheless achieved a high profile through an unprecedently 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. Sobyanin did not campaign directly.
Navalny was the frequent target of an "Internet troll operation" based in Olgino that was infiltrated by members of the media. Workers were paid 1,180 rubles daily (approximately $36.50 USD, with a free lunch) to write 100 comments or four postings daily. Shortly before the Moscow mayoral election they were instructed to write "this is the most honest election ever", a line which was then picked up in mainstream press coverage.
Navalny received 27.24% of the vote, or the second highest number, with Sobyanin receiving 51.37% of the vote. Exit polls showed that Navalny fared better in the center and southwest of Moscow, which have higher income and education levels. A runoff election was not held since Sobyanin received more than 50% of the vote. Navalny denounced the tally, saying it involved "clear falsifications", and threatened to rally his followers if a runoff election was not held. His supporters cited election irregularities such as a longer-than-expected vote tallying period.
2014 charges and conviction
- Charges and investigational data according to the Russian Legal Information Agency
In February 2014, Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg were prosecuted on embezzlement and money laundering charges following a complaint by Bruno Leproux, general director of the Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher, filed to the Investigative Committee of Russia in December 2012, asking to investigate if the "Glavpodpiska" subscription company had damaged Yves Rocher Vostok. The prosecution claimed they had embezzled over 26.7 million rubles ($540,000) from Yves Rocher Vostok, the Russian subsidiary of Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012, and 4.4 million rubles from the Russian "Multiprofile Processing Company". These funds were 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, according the Russian Investigative Committee. According to the investigation data, Oleg Navalny, a deputy director of a branch of Russian Post and of the Express Mail Service, persuaded the company “Yves Rocher East” to conclude a contract for postal services with the company Glavpodpiska (“Top Subscription Agency”) created by Aleksey Navalny. Supposedly, the latter company did not render any transportation services and could not render them, entrusting them to another company managed by a friend of Oleg, and the services rendered by this company cost much less. The surplus was considered as businesslike customary commission income. A similar scheme is claimed to be found in the case on the Russian “Interregional Processing Company”: In 2008, Oleg Navalny is said to have persuaded IPC to conclude contracts with his company concerning services of transportation of receipts, forms and other printed products. Prices for services are seen as excessive, resulting in damages to IPC in the amount of 3.8 million roubles.
Both brothers denied the charges, and Yves Rocher denied that they had any losses. On 28 February 2014 Navalny was placed under house arrest and prohibited from communicating with anyone other than his family, after allegedly violating travel restrictions. The sentence was scheduled originally to be read on January 15, 2015, but on December 29, 2014 the judge suddenly announced that she was to read the sentence on December 30. 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 sentence was read.
- Reactions from Western governments and media
The charges against Navalny and his brother are largely seen as a tactic by Putin to silence the opposition in Russia. The spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated the same day that the sentence is likely politically motivated. Navalny made a statement that "The government isn't just trying to jail its political opponents ... this time they're destroying and torturing the families of the people who oppose them."
- Events following conviction
In the evening, several thousands protesters gathered in the center of Moscow. Navalny broke his house arrest to attend the rally. He was immediately arrested by the police and brought back home. Subsequently, the court refused to arrest Navalny, since the sentence has already been read.
Alexei Navalny stated in 2011 that he considers 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 nationalists.
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 that "Russian foreign policy should be maximally directed at integration with Ukraine and Belarus… In fact, we're one nation. We should enhance integration." During the same broadcast Navalny said that he did not intend "to prove that the Ukrainian nation doesn't 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 don't see any kind of difference at all between Russians and Ukrainians", he admitted that his views might provoke "horrible indignation" in Ukraine. He also said that Russian government should stop "sponsoring the war" in eastern Ukraine". Navalny have 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 don’t have extreme anti-Russian positions. Being anti-Russian is the key to success now in Ukraine, and that’s our fault."
In March 2014, Navalny declared that he doesn't 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 Ekho Moskvy 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.
2015 Arrest and release
On 6 March 6, 2015, Navalny was released from a Moscow detention Centre after serving a 15-day sentence for distributing leaflets for an opposition rally on the subway. Due to his incarceration, Navalny was unable to attend the funeral of Boris Nemtsov. On his release, Navalny said Nemtsov's murder would not affect his opposition activities.
Navalny is married and has two children.
Awards and honours
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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alexey Navalny.|
|Wikinews has related news: Russia's main airport faces high danger from dump birds|
- Navalny's site (Russian)
- Navalny's blog (Russian)
- Navalny's page for the Yale World Fellows Program
- Navalny's blog translated to English, since 6-Dec-2011
- His project to fight corruption (Russian)