Navalny Verdict: Liveblog

July 18, 2013
Alexei Navalny at the meeting of the Leninsky District Court of Kirov/Sergey Brovko / RIA Novosti

4:08 p.m. (EST): Some remaining protesters have started a “lie in” for Nalvany:

However, one live feed we’ve been watching is showing police arresting people during a lie in. We’re not sure it’s the same location, but it is in the same general area of Moscow.

3:54 p.m. (EST): There are still some protesters in the streets, and some people have thrown smoke bombs, according to those who haven’t left the scene yet:



3:18 p.m. (EST): The protests are still being moved out of the squares:


Still, it doesn’t appear that there have been serious clashes or even large-scale arrests. Another livefeed shows the remaining protesters been kettled into the metro, a tactic that allows police to disperse crowds by splitting them upwithout directly confronting them.

3:05 p.m. (EST): RFE/RL’s headline says it all: “As the sun sets…the crackdown begins.”

In the last 20 minutes or so, police have moved in to disperse the crows. The livefeed shows stragglers arrested as the media (and hundreds of honking cars) watch on. Some of the streets and subway entrances that were blocked have been opened to allow people to leave.

Regardless about how one feels about this police action, there is no sign of serious clashes or severe injuries.


2:55 p.m. (EST): The protests continue. RT has released this video showing some of the arrests (and some police scuffles with journalists), and Reuters has released a picture showing a police officer beating on a prisoner inside one of the buses. Despite all this there has been no significant violence, and the crowds have remained peaceful:

2:11 p.m. (EST): The Moscow protest has an extremely festive atmosphere, and the crowds are still growing. Cars are driving past the crowds and honking, motorcycles are revving their engines in solidarity, and the crowd’s chants and clapping is getting louder. A livestream can be found here.

We’ve read estimates that between 5000 and 8000 protesters have gathered, but because the crowd is not all in one place it is extremely hard to get a single picture of the size of the protest. Still, this picture provides a good snapshot:


1:45 p.m. (EST): An RFE/RL correspondent reports that 58 have been detained in Moscow and 32 protesters have been arrested so far in Saint Petersburg. Itar-Tass reports that 60 have been detained near Manezhnaya Square in Moscow alone.

So far, this is one of the best views of the Manezhnaya protest:

1:40 p.m. (EST): The Open Newsroom at Storyful passes along this video of arrested protesters being loaded onto a bus in Moscow. Perhaps a dozen of these buses, all loaded with prisoners, has reportedly been seen leaving the area of the rally.

1:37 p.m. (EST): Hundreds, or maybe thousands, are also gathering in support of Navalny in St. Petersburg. One livestream reportedly shows people gathering, despite the rain (we’ve not confirmed the location, but it is raining in St. Petersburg).

1:26 p.m. (EST): The presence of the riot police doesn’t seem to be deterring protesters. But more riot police are arriving every minute:



1:20 p.m. (EST): Protests are still growing, but there have been more arrests in Moscow, and riot police appear to be staging, possibly to push protesters out of the streets:



1:06 p.m. (EST): There is still significant confusion over the fate of Alexei Nalvany after the prosecution, which wanted a sentence of six years in prison, appealed for his release. Apparently, however, this may be a legal technicality. The prosecutor’s office seems to be interpreting the verdict as not going into effect immediately, and anticipated placing Navalny under house arrest first.

RIA Novosti has this statement from the prosecutor’s office:

“The Prosecutor General’s Office believes that Navalny may remain out of custody under pledge not to leave town until the verdict comes into effect,” the office’s press service told RIA Novosti. If Navalny does not appeal the sentence in a higher court, it comes into effect in 10 days, the office said.

What is clear is that there is a hearing scheduled for 10 AM tomorrow morning. At the conclusion of that hearing, it is possible that Navalny is sent home to be kept under house arrest, perhaps only for a few more days.

12:13 p.m. (EST): RFE/RL reports that the prosecution in Kirov, where Nalvany was sentenced, is now calling for his release:

A representative of the Prosecutor’s Office has filed an appeal against the courtroom arrest of Aleksei Navalny and Pyotr Ofitserova. The prosecution believes that the decision to arrest was unlawful because the sentence had not yet entered into force. The court will take up the appeal tomorrow.

RT reports that protests have now broken out across the country, not just the very large crowds we’ve been following in Moscow:

Twitter users have reported several arrests in St. Petersburg, where around 400 Navalny supporters have gathered on Malaya Sadovaya Street for an unsanctioned protest.

Smaller protests have been taking place in several other Russian cities including Samara, Kazan and Voronezh, with about 100 protesters reportedly holding banners and chanting slogans in Samara, according to Lenta.ru.

12:08 p.m. (EST): The scale of the protests is growing quickly.


11:54 a.m. (EST): Several thousand protesters are now gathering in Moscow, and the crowds continue to grow. However, the closed-off areas and masses of riot police are making it hard to get a good understanding of the size of the crowds.


And the locations of protest sites are increasing:

 

 

 

11:34 a.m. (EST): Buzzfeed’s Max Seddon says that the crowds in the square are still growing:


And a funny anecdote, as many tourists are in the areas where there have been protests: https://twitter.com/maxseddon/statuses/357882978757640195

11:26 a.m. (EST): RT, Russian state press, is also reporting the protests and arrests at Manezhnaya (Manezh) Square:

Hundreds of protesters have gathered near cordoned off Manezhnaya Square, according to Itar-Tass. The people keep clapping their hands and chanting “freedom.” Those who step onto the thoroughfare are immediately detained by the police, with at least 10 arrests reported thus far.

They have also shared a picture of a man being arrested, and this shot of the crowds:


There have been occasional small-scale scuffles between a few of the protesters and police, and some in the crowds have chanted against the security forces, but the scene is mostly under control, with crowds chanting and clapping peacefully. 11:18 a.m. (EST): Protests are picking up rapidly in Manezh Square, Moscow. Several hundred people flocked to the square, and they have been cordoned off. https://twitter.com/ilyamuz/statuses/357877783659155456

This video, shared by RFE/RL, shows the crowds building:

 

 

11:00 a.m. (EST): There are protest rallies scheduled for later this evening, but so far protests, especially in Moscow, have been small, and major opposition leaders have been largely absent. It’s too early to see if this changes tonight, but Time’s Simon Shuster is unimpressed so far: https://twitter.com/shustry/statuses/357864904906129408

However, investors have protested against the verdict, and in a major way. Russia’s stock market took a dive after the sentence was announced, decreasing the most in a month:

The benchmark Micex Index (INDEXCF) declined as much as 2.1 percent after the decision, reversing gains, and traded down 1.2 percent at 1,414.15 by 3:20 p.m. in Moscow, the most since June 20. The gauge snapped a five-day winning streak. The volume of shares traded was 105 percent above the 30-day average, data compiled by Bloomberg show, while 10-day price swings rose to 21.161, the most since June 26.

The Interpreter’s Andrew Bowen suggests that some investors are scared because they see this as a prosecution of a political opponent, and they could easily end up the focus of a corruption charge themselves if they find themselves opposed to government officials. On the other hand, there may also be concerns over the state of corruption in the economy. Navalny was an outspoken critic of corruption, and often investigated perpetrators of it. With him gone, investors may see this court decision as a free pass for those allied closely with the current regime to continue to milk the system. Regardless, economic problems can easily become political problems in Russia.

10:13 a.m. (EST): Alexei Navalny’s court appearance took three hours, as the judge started with the pronouncement that Navalny was guilty, and the proceeded to read the entire 100+ page ruling before getting to the sentencing. For Russia watchers in other timezones (like myself) it just wasn’t possible to stay awake while listening to the barely-audible (and in Russian) mumbles of the speed-reading judge. For those who did stick around, there was plenty of time to express outrage, boredom, or to poke fun at the process. Onlookers weren’t the only ones who were bored, however. Navalny wasted no time in taking out his mobile phone and sending his own comments. Many of them were actually kind of funny. RFE/RL has published several highlights, including one where he re-tweets someone who calls him a “hipster,” and an edited picture of the judge dressed as some sort of Satan worshipper. He even sent a tweet after the sentence was finally pronounced. Recalling a statement he published before the sentencing (translated by the Interpreter), he called for his supporters to take political action:

“It’s OK. Try not to miss me,” he said. “And most of all, don’t be lazy. The toad won’t leave the oil pipeline by itself.”

9:59 a.m. (EST): Manezhnaya Square has reportedly been sealed off:

 

Red Square has also reportedly been evacuated and is now guarded by soldiers.

9:45 a.m. (EST): There have already been small protests in Manezh Square, Moscow. Security throughout the city is extremely tight.


Moscow is not the only city to keep an eye on. RT reports that there have already been arrests in Kirov:

Several of Navalny’s supporters have been taken into custody in Kirov where the opposition figure is currently being held at a detention facility. Among those arrested was one of the leaders of Navalny’s support team, Nikolay Lyaskin. Local police said they had detained just two activists.

Lyaskin being detained: https://twitter.com/bystrov_a/statuses/357797407150452738

9:31 a.m. (EST): As we reported early this morning, those convicted of a crime cannot hold office in Russia. RT (Russian state media) is now reporting that Navalny has officially dropped out of the race for mayor of Moscow.

9:24 a.m. (EST): Protest rallies held without proper permits are often targets of Russian police, and if there are rallies in support of Navalny, they certainly would not have had time to obtain the proper permits. This fact has many Russian watchers on edge right now. More concerning is that, in a city that hardly ever has any roadwork, officials have been stacking paving stones outside the KGB:


https://twitter.com/shustry/statuses/357848377796476928

9:16 a.m. (EST): Predictably, there are many in the West who have criticized this conviction. However, a giant of Russian politics has also expressed his discontent at the verdict:

https://twitter.com/JeanneWhalen/statuses/357850023255482369

Furthermore, the majority of those in Moscow, and many of those throughout the country, see Navalny as an anti-KRemlin leader, and Navalny’s case as politically motivated:


That’s why we’ll be watching Moscow’s streets. There are already protests underway. Stay tuned. 9:02 a.m. (EST): The European Union’s Catherine Ashton has released the following statement on the Navalny verdict:

“The High Representative is concerned about the guilty verdict and the prison sentences handed down today by the Kirov Court against Alexey Navalny, member of the Russian opposition coordination council and anti-corruption campaigner, and his co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov. The charges against them have not been substantiated during the trial. Civil society has a vital role to play in exposing wrongdoing and defending human rights, and it should not be stifled. This outcome, given the procedural shortcomings, raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia. The High Representative hopes that their sentences will be reconsidered in the appeal process.” 9:00 a.m. (EST): https://twitter.com/maxseddon/statuses/357830944654241792

8:40 a.m. (EST): We’re restarting our live coverage, and we’ll start with this:

Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 5 years in prison on embezzlement charges. The opposition leader has been remanded to custody: https://twitter.com/MiriamElder/statuses/357780627782770688 There is international outrage already. Amnesty International has weighed in, as has the U.S. Ambassador to Russia:

 

Before the sentencing, Navalny published a blog post where he called for Russia’s opposition to organize, unite, and start the political process that could stand up to Russia’s government. The unanswered question is whether that process will start today in the streets of Russia.

2:35 a.m. (EST): Blinov calls a 10-minute break to interrupt his marathon speed-reading of pretty much everything presented, said or argued so far in the Kirovles case. The sentence is expect in another 2 hours or so. We’ll be back later to cover that.

2:07 a.m. (EST): Well, at least he’s laughing. A Twitter user writes: “To put hipsters on trial is to ruin the court.”

2:03 a.m. (EST): Judge Blinov, noticing that the court room was full of smart phone users, asked everyone to turn off their phones. He’s a little more than an hour into reading the 100-page verdict, which is said to take a full four hours to read. Navalny’s tweeted repeatedly about how interminable and boring his own conviction is.

1:35 a.m. (EST): Yesterday, Navalny wrote a blog post on his Live Journal entitled “Before the Sentence.” Navalny seems defiant, and yet somehow resigned to the fact that he would no longer be a viable political candidate, and he could be facing prison time. Still, the statement does not call for rebellion, but political organization, unification, and continued resistance. We have translated the post in a separate entry.

1:24 a.m. (EST): U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul tweeted at Navalny: “Hi, I’m watching.”

1:13a.m. (EST): The view from the defendant’s table. Navalny posts an Instagram of Judge Blinov from the court room. http://instagram.com/p/b5SeJfIC9_/

1:06 a.m. (EST): Navalny has been found guilty. The sentence awaits.


01:05 a.m. (EST): Because of the complexity of the case, it could take several hours for the judge to fully read the entire verdict. However, the process has already begun. Meanwhile, it seems that the US embassy has dispatched someone to the court: https://twitter.com/McFaul/statuses/35759876995455795201:00 a.m. (EST): Rapsi News is carrying a live video feed from inside the courtroom which can be seen here.

12:54 a.m. (EST): A shot from inside the courtroom. https://twitter.com/Emmawells1/statuses/357721635509399552According to Kevin Rothrock, 170 journalists showed up to take only 50 seats inside the courtroom. 12:46 a.m. (EST): While we’re waiting for the verdict, it’s worth noting that Navlany has made done several things in advance of a potential prison sentence. For instance, on Wednesday he published an article that questioned the finances of Vladimir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways. Navalny claimed that a dacha owned by Yakunin was worth far more money than Yakunin’s financial records indicate that he could afford, and that Yakunin’s family was connected to a web of offshores companies that actually control the property. Read our translation: Navalny Urges Putin to Investigate Yakunin’s Property. 12:34 a.m. (EST): Good evening or Доброе утро. The verdict on Alexey Navalny’s embezzlement case will be announced any minute. The Interpreter will be live-blogging it here. Here’s a first photo of the defendant and his wife just prior to entering the courtroom in Kirov


According to The New Times, the verdict is 100-pages long (just a reminder: the judge in the case has never found a defendant not guilty.) Navalny’s mayoral campaign manager believes that current Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin has already seen a copy based on Sobyanin’s comments that “the decision by the trial court will not change anything for him [Navalny] and  he will continue to participate in the election.”