MOSCOW – Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny should be imprisoned for 10 years for stealing $500,000, prosecutors in Russia said Friday in a case dismissed by critics of President Vladimir Putin as part of his campaign to stifle dissent. Navalny, who led mass protests against Putin three years ago, denies guilt, as does the other defendant in the case, his brother Oleg, for whom the prosecution is seeking eight years in jail.
"Life makes no sense if you have to tolerate endless lies. I will never accept this system, which is built on lies," Alexei Navalny told the court of Putin's 15-year rule over Russia. "I will not stop my fight against this junta," he said. "But there is no need to jail my brother for eight years. Taking hostages will not stop me."
The brothers stand accused of stealing from two firms, including an affiliate of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012. The verdict is expected on Jan.15. "The guilt of the defendants has been fully proven," prosecutor Nadezhda Ignatova told the Moscow court.
She said the 10-year term would cover the current charges as Navalny, a Western-educated anti-corruption blogger, sighed after the prosecutor spoke, saying: "At least it's easy to count."
Currently under house arrest, he is serving a suspended five-year jail term for earlier conviction for embezzling 16 million rubles from a state timber company – a decision that Kremlin critics also call a sham.
Since the mass protests in Moscow at the turn of 2011 and 2012, the opposition has been largely marginalized, which Putin critics and rights activists blame on what they say is a Kremlin-sponsored campaign against them.
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