Russian anti-corruption blogger and opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been jailed for five years for fraud, after a trial he says was politically motivated. Mr Navalny could now be barred from running in the Moscow mayoral election set for September. He also joins a growing list of opponents of President Vladimir Putin who have ended up on the wrong side of the law or in exile, or have met their deaths in suspicious circumstances. When Mr Putin first became president in 2000, he immediately set about curbing the power of the oligarchs – the group of billionaires who exerted huge influence over Russia’s political system and media. His first victim was media magnate, Vladimir Gusinsky, the owner of NTV, a station that at the time was highly critical of Moscow’s war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya and was home to the satirical puppet show Kukly, which mercilessly mocked the new president. When Mr Gusinsky refused to allow the Kremlin to influence NTV’s editorial policy he quickly found himself charged with fraud in June 2000, and fled the country shortly afterwards. Within months, he was joined by his fellow media magnate and political fixer Boris Berezovsky.
Mr Berezovsky is believed to have played a key role in helping Mr Putin into power in 2000. But he quickly fell out of favour with the new regime and sought refuge in the UK.
Mr Berezovsky continued to plot against Mr Putin and to be held up as a bogeyman by the Russian media until he was found dead in the bathroom of his Berkshire home in March this year. Police have said that there is no evidence of anybody else being involved in his death.
Perhaps most famously Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the now defunct oil company, Yukos, was targeted when (like Mr Navalny) he accused Mr Putin and his associates of conniving in massive corruption.
He has subsequently been convicted in two trials of tax evasion and fraud. Following his second trial in 2010, Amnesty International recognised Mr Khodorkovsky and his co-defendant, Platon Lebedev, as “prisoners of conscience”.
Mr Khodorkovsky is due for release in 2014, but there are signs that he could face further charges.