Navalny ally Leonid Volkov sentenced to 20 days in jail

Leonid Volkov, a senior aide to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has been sentenced to 20 days in jail over a rally organized last year. Volkov told people to keep fighting for freedom of expression.

Leonid Volkov was sentenced on Wednesday to 20 days of administrative detention in connection to a protest on September 9, 2018, against the raising the pension age.  

"This story is important to understand more about how media and politics work together in some places of this world these days," he told DW in an exclusive interview from the courthouse, adding that he was disappointed not to be able to attend DW's Global Media Forum.

"Keep fighting for freedom of the press and freedom of political expression," Volkov added.

Now live
01:19 mins.
DW News | 22.05.2019

Volkov: "Keep fighting for freedom of the press!"

Volkov was taken into custody on Tuesday under Article 20.2.8. It allows for administrative detention for the "repeated violation of the established procedure of organizing or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or picketing."

Navalny also said on Twitter that police had "detained him with the words 'we've been waiting for you for a long time.'" 

Last September, thousands of Russians took to the streets protesting the government's attempt to increase the retirement age. Authorities detained hundreds of demonstrators. Navalny also served two stints in jail for violating protest laws last year.

By arresting Volkov months after the protests the Russian government is engaging in a "psychological battle" with the opposition, said Elmar Brok, a CDU member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

"It gives the impression that at any moment the long arm of the FSB security service can get you when they want," he told DW. "It’s a strategy to demoralize the opposition."

Read more: Moscow protesters rally against Russia's 'online Iron Curtain'

Navalny, a lawyer-turned-political campaigner, has organized some of the biggest protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years. He came to prominence in 2008, when his blog exposing malpractice in Russian politics and among the nation's major state-owned firms came to the public's attention. 

Navalny's anti-corruption rhetoric is hugely popular among younger people who follow his online channels and blogs. 

Who is Alexei Navalny?

The face of Russia's opposition

The lawyer-turned-political campaigner has been among the most prominent figures of Russia's opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Navalny came to prominence in 2008, when his blog exposing malpractice in Russian politics and among the country's major state-owned companies came to the public's attention. Revelations published on his blog even led to resignations, a rarity in Russian politics.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Disputed parliamentary elections

In 2011, Navalny was arrested for the first time, spending 15 days in prison for his role at a rally outside the State Duma in Moscow. The parliamentary election victory for Putin's United Russia was marred by instances of ballot stuffing, reported by demonstrators on social media. Upon his release, Navalny pledged to make "extraordinary efforts" to continue the protest movement.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Second jail term

After being re-elected president in 2012, Putin ordered Russia's Investigative Committee to launch a criminal enquiry into Nivalny's past. The following year the campaigner was charged and sentenced again, this time for five years, for alleged embezzlement in the city of Kirov. However, he was released the following day pending affirmation from a higher court. The sentence was later suspended.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Anti-Kremlin platform grows

Despite being embroiled in legal troubles, Navalny was allowed to run in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. A second-place finish behind Putin-ally Sergei Sobyanin was seen as an overwhelming success and galvanized the Russian opposition movement.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Navalny takes to social media

His anti-Kremlin rhetoric has led to Navalny being banned from appearing on Russian state-owned television. That has forced him to deliver his political message over social media and his blog. His talent for public speaking, punchy use of language and humorous mockery of Putin and his loyalists has mobilized a legion of young followers.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Presidential ambitions

In December 2016, the opposition leader announced the formal start of his campaign to run for the Russian presidency in March 2018. However, repeated accusations of corruption, which his supporters say are politically motivated, could ultimately bar him from running for public office.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Convicted of corruption

In 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated Navalny's right to a fair trial in the Kirov case. Although Russia's Supreme Court overturned the five-year sentence, the verdict was sent back to the Kirov court, which in 2017 again charged Navalny with a suspended five-year sentence. Navalny's challenge against the ruling remains ongoing.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Moscow's biggest protests in six years

In February 2017, anti-corruption rallies across dozens of Russian cities led to the arrests of over 1,000 demonstrators, including Navalny. The protests, believed to have been the largest in the Russian capital since 2012, were spurred by a report published by Navalny linking Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to a billion-euro property empire. The presidential candidate was released 15 days later.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Physically assaulted

Navalny was assaulted and hospitalized in April 2017 after being hit in the eye with a chemical green dye, permanently damaging his right cornea. Navalny accused the Russian authorities of stopping him from seeking medical treatment abroad due to the embezzlement conviction against him. However, he was eventually permitted by the Kremlin human rights council to travel to Spain for eye surgery.

sri/sms (AFP, Moscow Times)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.