WASHINGTON — Just as NSA leaker Edward Snowden officially applied for temporary asylum in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin-backed government have imprisoned a prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.
Navalny became famous when he led the largest protests against Putin and his government last year and campaigned on anti-corruption efforts. His supporters, said Reuters, believe that Putin is now a dictator ruling by repression as they shouted “Shame! Disgrace!” after hearing of the court’s decision. Many were shocked, were in tears and angry at the heavy-handed verdict.
The U.S. and European Union expressed concern over the case and could be worrisome for Snowden, who is seeking temporary asylum in Russia. Russian government prosecutors asked for a six-year jail term for Navalny for organizing a scheme to rob his previous employer, a timber company, of at least 16 million rubles.
Navalny, in his last court statement, called Putin a toad that abuses Russia’s oil wealth to remain in power and went on Twitter to say, “Okay, don’t miss me. More important – don’t be idle.”