In closing arguments on Friday, prosecutors urged a Russian judge to convict the political opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny of embezzlement and sentence him to six years in jail — a verdict that would destroy his political career and eliminate him as a threat to President Vladimir V. Putin by imprisoning him until after the next presidential election. Mr. Navalny is the most prominent opposition figure in modern Russia to face prosecution, and he has accused the Kremlin of pursuing trumped-up charges as political retribution. While forcefully denying the allegations, he has long said he expects to be convicted in the trial, which was streamed live online from Kirov, a regional capital. The verdict is to be delivered on July 18. For more than a year, as Mr. Navalny helped to lead big street protests against Mr. Putin, the Kremlin seemed to waver between a desire to imprison him and a reluctance to galvanize his supporters by locking him up. Mr. Navalny has declared his candidacy for mayor of Moscow in an election to be held in September, but he has also said he hopes one day to be president.
“Change Russia,” proclaims a glossy pamphlet produced by his campaign. “Start with Moscow.” It adds the tag line, “Honest leadership — a European level of life.”
This particular case against Mr. Navalny — he faces several others — stems from a brief period when he served as an adviser to the governor of the Kirov region, where his work included efforts to reorganize a government-controlled timber company. Mr. Navalny and a co-defendant are charged with embezzling nearly $500,000 from the company. A third man accused in the scheme pleaded guilty and has cooperated with the prosecutors.
If Mr. Navalny, 37, is convicted of criminal charges, he will be barred from running for mayor or any other office. A six-year jail term, while less than the maximum possible sentence of 10 years, would, if served in full, keep him in prison until after Russia’s next presidential election in 2018.
In addition to the six-year jail term, the prosecutor, Sergei Bogdanov, asked the judge to impose a fine of about $30,000. “I believe that the punishment proposed by the state is just and proportionate to the committed crime and the loss suffered by the state,” Mr. Bogdanov said.