Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his former business partner were released from custody Friday, one day after they were each sentenced to at least four years in an embezzlement case. But critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin are piling up, as well as mass protests across the country.
Navalny was one of Putin’s fiercest critics over the past few years, and many in the United States and elsewhere spoke out against what they felt was a politically motivated conviction.
One of those who spoke out was Garry Kasparov, the grand chessmaster-turned-opposition politician who fled Russia earlier this year amid fears of prosecution. He told Business Insider that Putin has “openly declared war on the opposition.”
When he fled, Kasparov feared he could be next in line amid the ongoing trials of Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov. Navalny and his former business partner, Pyotr Ofitserov, were freed amid appeal from the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office.
Here are his full thoughts on the situation, which his spokesman, Mig Greengard, provided to Business Insider (emphasis added):
“My assessment of the situation was confirmed, unfortunately, when Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison. Stop and think about that, five years of real life for expressing his political views against the Putin regime. It is symbolic that it came on the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela, likely the most famous political prisoner of the 20th century. He was jailed for 27 years. Navalny’s sentence was for five years, but we all know he will be in jail until Putin falls, and that he won’t be free a moment before that or jailed a moment after that.
The verdict also confirmed the trajectory of the regime, that Putin is stopping at nothing now and that elections will never force him out. The issue of power in Putin’s Russia can only be solved by a mass campaign of civil disobedience. It was always dubious to participate in the sham election procedures, but now such participation would indicate direct complicity with the authorities. Putin has openly declared war on the opposition and pretending otherwise is foolish to the point of being suicidal. We can support Navalny only by fighting on our own terms and by resisting in every way we can with all our might.”
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