Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist who for years has been one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics, was arrested today near Moscow’s Red Square for taking part in a protest unsanctioned by the government. The arrest came shortly after his being convicted of fraud and given a suspended sentence of three and a half years, and the protest was in response to the Kremlin’s treatment of both Navalny and his brother, Oleg. Oleg, who was also convicted on the same charge, will have to serve out his prison sentence, a punishment which prompted Alexei Navalny to yell at the sentencing judge, “Aren’t you ashamed? Why are you jailing him? . . . To punish me more?”
Navalny, an attorney by profession, first came to prominence in Russia through his Live Journal blog, which has chronicled numerous instances of cronyism and corruption both in the Kremlin and among prominent members of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. (In a 2011 radio debate with a high-ranking party representative, Navalny referred to United Russia as the “party of crooks and thieves,” a phrase which became widely popular among anti-Putin activists, especially in the 2012 protests against Putin’s reelection.) Frequent arrests, threats, bans from social media, and previous convictions on trumped-up charges have not stopped Navalny from exposing the rampant corruption and abuse of power within Russia’s government. He was even able to capture 27 percent of the vote in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral elections despite the usual government tampering.