Russian press reaction to the Navalny court sentence

(Commentary and analysis from BBC Monitoring)

Newspapers in Russia have been sympathetic towards Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny following his sentencing on embezzlement charges on Thursday.

Mr Navalny’s unexpected release on bail came too late to be reflected in Friday’s newspapers, which focus on his role and the impact of his possible absence from the political arena.

Commentators are impressed with Navalny’s determination and charisma, with one newspaper describing him as a beacon of freedom in Russia.

Another article, however, argues that Navalny comes from “a murky environment” and may indeed have something to answer for.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily argues that as far as charismatic politicians go, the Russian opposition has no alternative to Alexei Navalny. “Navalny simply plugged those gaps, becoming an idea, a slogan or a programme himself,” argues Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Vedomosti, a business daily, praises Navalny’s determination and the fact he chose to go to jail rather than strike a deal with the system.

“That’s real freedom,” the article says, adding: “Watch and learn: this is a real school of leadership.” The Russian government’s response, according to the paper, has been “hysterical” and “chaotic”.

“The system is reacting as if it were facing a tsunami. Yet it’s dealing with just one free person,” says Vedomosti.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, a popular tabloid, senses foul play in Navalny’s prosecution, saying it aims to serve as a lesson to “those who are free”.

The daily says the Kremlin is worried Russians are losing their fear of their government. “Fear has weakened. It needs to be restored,” it imagines the leadership thinking.

The message for Russians is, according to the paper: “Keep your mouth shut, and then it won’t matter who you are: a drug addict, a paedophile, a homosexual, a thief or a racketeer. What’s important is that you’re not an enemy.”

An article in the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid argues that sending Mr Navalnyy to jail may actually be counterproductive for the Kremlin, pointing out that history is replete with examples of rulers’ opponents becoming “stronger and more dangerous while in jail”.

In remarks made in the same paper, journalist Yulia Latynina agrees, saying Mr Navalny’s sentencing confirmed his status as leader of the opposition.

“In order to become a prophet, you have to hang on a cross for a while,” she tells Komsomolskaya Pravda. “In order to be a real opposition politician in an authoritarian state, you have to go through jail.”

Eduard Limonov, a neo-Bolshevik opposition figure, is critical of Mr Navalny, however. Writing in the pro-government daily Izvestiya, he says that the opposition leader comes from “a pretty murky environment where people happily forgot about the line between legal and illegal”.

In the top story on the website of the Russian government’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, Anatoly Kucherena, a pro-Kremlin lawyer who recently helped fugitive US whistle-blower Edward Snowden apply for asylum in Russia, voices satisfaction with Navalny’s release on Friday.

“The Kirov region court was absolutely right” to release Mr Navalny on bail, especially because he is running as a candidate for the Moscow mayoral office, Mr Kucherena tells the paper.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world.

and more from the Mendeleyev Journal:

(Photo: Marina Perfileva)
(Photo: Marina Perfileva)

Russian media has covered this event and with good reason as the case and fate of Alexei Navalny is finally beginning to peak the interest of Russians all over the country and not just confined to the Moscow region.

(Photo: Marina Perfileva)
(Photo: Marina Perfileva)

Police however continue to arrest press members and especially photo journalists, thus leading to a new breed of citizen journalist with wide availability of digital media today. The police simply cannot arrest everyone with a camera so often they target certain journalists or press members from media outlets thought to be friendly with the opposition.  The press member above is officially credentialed as shown by his blue badge.

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