Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, a vocal Kremlin critic who led some of Moscow’s massive 2011-2012 street protests against alleged electoral fraud and the rule of President Vladimir Putin, goes on trial Wednesday in the central Russian city of Kirov. Investigators accuse him of heading a criminal group that embezzled about $500,000 in a timber deal. Navalny and his supporters say the charges have been fabricated to discredit him and stymie his political activity. RIA Novosti reporter Marc Bennetts is in Kirov following the case.
Refresh this page for live updates from the court and its environs, including news on protests by Navalny supporters. All times below – Moscow time.
8:45 – “There’s no room, they won’t let you in,” says Nemtsov, as Navalny arrives at court. Unsurprisingly, officials find space for Navalny in court.
8:30 – Row at court entrance as officials tell waiting journalists the court room is full.
8:15 – Crowd of Navalny supporters starting to build up in front of court now. “Russia without Putin!” chants a protester through a megaphone. Fellow protest leader and Yeltsin-era Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov is among those who have travelled to Kirov to support Navalny.
8:00 – Lone Navalny supporter standing opposite the court with a sign that reads “we will not forgive, we will not forget.” Light police presence so far. But massive scrum of journalists waiting to get into court.
7:50 – Navalny supporters gathering not far from the court next to a “Putin is a thief” banner. Locals in Kirov, a small city some 500 miles from Moscow, seemed bemused by the attention. “Is that Navalny, or what’s his name?” asks a taxi driver.
7:35 – Alexei Navalny and his wife, Julia, arrive at Kirov’s central train station, where they are met by some two dozen journalists.
“I feel great,” says Navalny, adding that the charges against him are “senseless.” His wife doesn’t look so happy.
Just to remind you all, Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption crusader who led mass protests against President Vladimir Putin’s rule, is in Kirov to face charges of embezzlement on a grand scale. Investigators allege he used his influence while adviser to the governor of the Kirov Region, Nikita Belykh, to pressure a local official into selling timber to a company run by an acquaintance at a price unfavorable to the region. Navalny has called the charges “strange and absurd.”