Putin's Foe Freed Pending Appeal Following International Outcry

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 19 2013 12:24 PM

Vladimir Putin Learns That There Are Some Things Not Even He Can Get Away With

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Russia's top opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the courtroom in Kirov on July 19, 2013. A Russian court on Friday unexpectedly freed protest leader Alexei Navalny pending his appeal against a five-year sentence on embezzlement charges, after his jailing prompted thousands to take to the streets in protest

Photo by Sergi Brovko/AFP/Getty Images

Alexei Navalny, Russia's charismatic opposition leader who has been described by the Associated Press as "President Vladimir Putin's No. 1 enemy," was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison after being convicted of embezzlement—a move that was seen by pretty much everyone outside of Putin's camp as an absurdly brazen attempt to silence one of the Kremlin's most-vocal foes. The news sparked unsanctioned protests in several Russian cities, and drew international criticism from the United States and Europe. Still, most observers didn't expect the outrage at home or abroad to have much of an impact. But apparently it did. The New York Times:

[P]rosecutor in Kirov, where the opposition leader ... was convicted ... petitioned the judge to release Mr. Navalny pending his appeal, arguing that the arrest prevented him from taking part in the Moscow mayoral election. That could keep Mr. Navalny out of prison for more than a month, perhaps temporarily neutralizing the anger at the verdict while allowing him to run for mayor of Moscow in September.
Mr. Navalny, who famously branded President Vladimir V. Putin’s United Russia political machine the “party of swindlers and thieves,” was apparently singled out by the Kremlin after having grown in stature from his beginnings as an anti-corruption blogger and leader of street protests to a populist candidate for mayor.
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Of course, it remains to be seen what will happen to Navalny once the mayoral election wraps up.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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