MOSCOW, July 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia’s opposition figurehead and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny on Friday came down on the country’s “feudal system,” saying he and his colleagues would do everything possible to destroy it.
Navalny delivered a closing statement in a Kirov court after prosecutors called for six years in prison and a fine of one million rubles ($30,000) for him on Friday in an ongoing embezzlement trial that his supporters say is designed to silence Russia's opposition.
“I state that I and my colleagues will do everything possible to destroy the feudal system being built in Russia, destroy the system of power under which 83 percent of the national wealth belongs to 0.5 percent of the population,” the protest leader said.
Navalny, a whistle-blowing blogger who has led large-scale street protests in Moscow against Russian President Vladimir Putin, is accused of having been involved in a criminal group that allegedly stole $500,000 worth of timber from state-run lumber company Kirovles.
His trial, which began in April and is now entering its final stages, is being held in the provincial city of Kirov - some 800 km (500 miles) from Moscow - where Navalny was working as an advisor to the Kirov Region governor when the alleged embezzlement took place. Navalny denies the charges and claims they are politically motivated.
In his closing statement, Navalny accused Russia’s authorities of failing to properly use oil and gas revenues to improve the life of the country’s population.
“For [the past] 15 years, a huge amount of oil and gas money has been received. What has this period resulted in for the country’s residents?” he said. “Has anyone got [a better] access to healthcare, education, new housing?”
“These are people who have seized power and are building their feudal regime. All these FSB [Federal Security Service] officers, generals put their children in banks, all these [ruling] United Russia [party] deputies sent some [of their close ones] to Switzerland, opening bank accounts there,” Navalny said.
“We will destroy that feudal system that is robbing you all here,” he vowed.
Navalny also said he would not “run away abroad” despite the fact that he faces six years in prison.
“I can’t run away from myself,” he said. “What I want to do is be involved in an effort to help the residents of my country.”
Navalny has been nominated as an official candidate in upcoming Moscow mayoral elections, which are scheduled for September 8. Under Russian law, any jail sentence - even a suspended one - will leave the opposition leader barred from running for public office.