In 2012, Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny spoke about the protests in Russia leading up to elections that President Vladimir Putin won handily.
Updated on July 19 | In an unexpected move, a Russian court released Alexei Navalny on Friday pending his appeal, so he can run for Moscow mayor in the fall after all.
In a Feb. 29, 2012, interview on the PBS NewsHour, Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of the Russian government, said despite more than a decade of economic growth in Russia, President Vladimir Putin could have done more to help his country.
“Simply comparing Russia with neighboring countries, we see that other former Soviet Union countries grew even stronger. So Putin’s time is a time of lost opportunities. Russia had and still has enormous oil, gas and other energy resources, and prices are very high.”
On Thursday, Navalny was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in prison in what critics called a politically motivated trial because of his anti-government stance.
The criminal charges against Navalny included stealing $500,000 from a state-owned timber company during his time as adviser to the governor of Kirov, Russia, a city about 900 miles northeast of Moscow.
In the Kirov courtroom, Navalny was using his smartphone during the verdict reading, and sent a message to his supporters via Twitter: “Oh, well. Don’t get bored without me. And, importantly, don’t be idle,” reported the Associated Press.
Russian news agencies reported that Navalny would stay in a detention facility in Kirov before being sent to a prison.
He had been planning to run for mayor of Moscow, but his campaign said he would withdraw his name following the verdict.
In the 2012 interview, Navalny also responded to allegations from his opponents that the protest movement in Russia and he himself were connected to the West:
“I’m quite an ordinary citizen who lives on the outskirts of Moscow. My children go to a regular Moscow school and kindergarten. My life is completely transparent, which is absolutely not the case for Putin’s officials, whose children live abroad, who have accounts in Switzerland, the United States and Great Britain.
“So the question arises, who is more connected with the West, the opposition or Russian corrupt ruling class?”
View more of our World coverage.