A prominent Russian opposition leader will stand trial for theft this month, a court said on Wednesday, in what appeared to be a tough signal to critics of President Vladimir Putin who hope to revive a street protest movement in May.
Alexei Navalny, an anti-graft blogger and leader of protests last year whose case has been compared to the prosecution of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky during Putin’s first stint in the presidency in 2000-2008, is to go on trial on April 17.
He faces up to ten years in prison if found guilty of stealing 16 million roubles ($512,000) worth of timber from a state firm in Russia’s remote Kirov region when he worked there as an adviser to the company, Kirovles, in 2009.
Navalny has denied wrongdoing in the timber case as well as separate cases in which he is accused of defrauding a mail transport company and stealing funds from a political party.
The 36-year-old activist says the allegations are “absurd” and part of a Kremlin strategy to intimidate critics and stifle anti-government protests that started last year.