(Moscow Times.) A Kirov court Wednesday issued suspended sentences to opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his business partner Pyotr Ofitserov, in a move some analysts say is a sign the Kremlin does not want to risk a new wave of protests ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
On Wednesday, the Kirov Region Court in central Russia overturned the July 18 verdict issued by the Leninsky District Court of Kirov, which sentenced Navalny and Ofitserov to five and four years in prison, respectively, for allegedly stealing $500,000 worth of timber from state-owned company KirovLes in 2009.
The court replaced the sentences with suspended ones and ordered Navalny and Ofitserov not to change their places of residence and to register with police twice a month. A minor violation will see the court reinstate their original prison sentences.
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.
While the latest ruling was seen by some as a minor victory for Navalny, as it kept him out of prison, others said it had more to do with the Kremlin trying to avoid exacerbating relations with the West than with Navalny’s popularity in recent Moscow mayoral elections.