Russia opposition leader Navalny says Kremlin sabotaging his presidential bid | Reuters
By Alexander Reshetnikov and Maria Tsvetkova | KIROV/MOSCOW, Russia KIROV/MOSCOW, Russia Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused the Kremlin of trying to block him from running in next year's presidential election after a court on Wednesday found him guilty of embezzlement.Navalny, who has made a name for himself exposing official corruption, said he would still stand for president, but it was not immediately clear if that was legally possible.The court, in the provincial city of Kirov, found Navalny guilty of embezzlement in relation to a timber firm called Kirovles, and gave him a five-year suspended prison sentence. Navalny denies wrongdoing.
By Alexander Reshetnikov and Maria Tsvetkova
| KIROV/MOSCOW, Russia
KIROV/MOSCOW, Russia Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused the Kremlin of trying to block him from running in next year's presidential election after a court on Wednesday found him guilty of embezzlement.Navalny, who has made a name for himself exposing official corruption, said he would still stand for president, but it was not immediately clear if that was legally possible.The court, in the provincial city of Kirov, found Navalny guilty of embezzlement in relation to a timber firm called Kirovles, and gave him a five-year suspended prison sentence. Navalny denies wrongdoing. "What we are seeing now is a sort of telegram sent from the Kremlin, saying that they believe that I, my team, and the people whose views I voice, are too dangerous to allow us to take part in the election campaign," Navalny said."We don't recognise this ruling. I have every right to take part in the election according to the constitution and I will do so," he told reporters in the court room, moments after the sentence was handed down.Late last year, Navalny announced a plan to run for president in 2018, when Vladimir Putin's current term expires. Putin has not said if he will seek a new term, though most Kremlin-watchers expect him to run.If Navalny is allowed to run and is up against Putin, opinion polls indicate the opposition leader will lose by a big margin. However, having Navalny on the ballot paper could be an irritant for the Kremlin.
It could provide a focus for anti-Kremlin protests, especially in the big urban centres where Navalny draws most of his support.GAME OF CARDS
Wednesday's ruling was the culmination of a retrial, after the European Court of Human Rights said Navalny's right to a fair hearing in the original trial were violated.
Russian law states that someone sentenced to a prison term for a crime such as embezzlement is disqualified from running for elected office.But Navalny said after the verdict he believed he could still run, because the disqualification did not apply to someone given a suspended sentence."We will rely on the constitution," his lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Reuters.A final decision on whether Navalny will be able to run will be up to the Kremlin and is likely to be made at the end of this year, said Lilia Shevtsova, a Russian politics researcher.
"The Kremlin's goal is not to turn the next election into the butt of jokes," she told Reuters. "Navalny is being kept in reserve, like an ace in the hole in a game of cards, but it's not yet clear if that card will be played."Asked if Navalny's absence from the presidential race would undermine the legitimacy of the election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier on Wednesday: "We believe any concerns about this are inappropriate."Navalny did unexpectedly well in a 2013 mayoral election in Moscow, but has lost some support recently because of the popularity of Putin's policies, said Yevgeny Minchenko, a political analyst familiar with Kremlin thinking."The (opposition) statement that the election would only be legitimate if Navalny took part is a bluff," said Minchenko. ($1 = 59.2274 roubles) (Additional reporting by Svetlana Reiter; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova/Christian Lowe; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan)
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By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.