A Brief Intro To The Navalny Case

The anti-corruption crusader and best hope of the Russian race Navalny will be on trial for embezzlement on April 17th. And it has to be admitted that even many of us who tend to look at the liberal opposition’s claims of repression with a healthy degree of skepticism are now “plagued by vague suspicions.”

It’s just too convenient. After all, there are now a total of four criminal cases against him, three of them potential (SPS, Yves Roche, Post of Russia) and one in process (Kirovles). Most of them appear to be pretty flimsy. It’s as if the Investigative Committee read through the entire book of his life and placed a laser-like focus on every spelling and grammatical error. Which the IC itself acknowledges:

Interviewer: But if the case didn’t have Navalny, then, probably, the case itself wouldn’t exist?

Vladimir Markin, IC spokesman: Perhaps, it would not have happened so quickly, because unfortunately the numbers and energy of our investigators are quite limited. In an ordinary case of embezzlement and misappropriation perhaps our hands wouldn’t have reached in so quickly. But if the person in question draws attention to himself with all his strength, or we can even say, teases authority – saying that oh I am so white and flawless, then the interest in his past increases and the process of exposing it to the sunlight, understandably, accelerates.

Yet with all that said, the fact of this vastly intensified scrutiny being politically motivated does not – as with Khodorkovsky – absolve the defendant of guilt should he actually have committed the crimes in question. And here is where an objective appraisal of the case parts ways with the narrative that has been presented by the liberal opposition and Western media, which asserts that the case against Navalny has been invented out of thin air on Putin’s orders.

After all, stealing 15 million rubles of timber should, at least in theory, be as bad if done by Navalny as if done by any random Nashist – and as deserving of punishment. IF he did actually steal them. But how to find out if he did?

You could do a lot worse than avoiding the media din, and instead systemically reading through the documents and arguments offered by both sides. Here are the more important sources I have identified:

The only problem? All this material is in Russian. But despair not! For your fearless Leader (aka myself) is going to do this for you in the coming days, and write informative posts and articles on the basis of his discoveries.

I will not write a lot right now, but there are four things I wish to clear up from the beginning, to set down the correct channels about how to think about the case.

(1) At the most basic level, the allegation is that Navalny, in concert with Ofitserov, set up a shell company to criminally enrich themselves. Originally, Kirovles, a state company headed by Opalev, had a set of agreements with its customers to supply them with timber. Under pressure from Navalny, who was an adviser to Governor Belykh, these agreements were torn up and rewritten at the same prices, but with their shell company as the new partner. Kirovles, in its turn, sold the same amount of timber to the shell company, but at lower prices. The difference, presumably, was pocketed by Navalny and Ofitserov. This scheme only lasted four months before there was a scandal and Opalev was evicted from Kirovles.

(2) It is not clear that this, even if true, would constitute outright theft. As Politrash’s second lawyer Strigov argues, the charges then would not be Article 160, part 4 of the Criminal Code (theft/хищение) – as per the Investigative Committee – but Article 165, part 2 (causing financial loss by way of deceit and misuse of trust/Причинение имущественного ущерба путем обмана или злоупотребления доверием).

(3) There are dozens of witnesses testifying that they were pressured into rewriting timber supply contracts from Kirovles to Navalny and Ofitserov’s shell company. For his part, Navalny alleges that he had nothing to do with the shell company and was only marginally acquainted with Ofitserov. The evidence within the IC’s indictment however overwhelmingly suggests that this was the not case on both counts. Navalny would have been wiser to focus his defense on proving that the shell company did not do anything illegal, as opposed to (falsely) disavowing any involvement with it, and I do not know if it’s now too late to change tactics.

PS. More links:


  1. Erik Phiipsen says:

    Thank you for your attempt to be objective – crediblity is extremely important for those of us who would like to see Ptin’s Russia develop, slowely but surely towards a society where there is a wall between the judiciary and the presidential administration.

  2. Dear Anatoly,

    Thank you for an objective summary. A few observations:

    1. The practice of the European Court of Human Rights is that where there is evidence that a crime was committed it will not construe a political motive to a prosecution unless there is actual evidence of it. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly said that it will not infer such a motive merely because “everybody knows” it is there.

    The European Court of Human Rights will not construe Markin’s comments as evidence of a political motive behind the prosecution. What Markin said was that because of Navalny’s high profile and his constant taunting of business and of the authorities he drew attention to himself making the legal process faster than it might otherwise have been and persuading the Investigative Committee to become involved. That is undoubtedly true and it is to Markin’s credit that he said it so straightforwardly.

    2. This is a completely different case from the Pussy Riot case. In that case there was no serious argument about the facts. The case was essentially a legal argument about the seriousness of the offence arising from those facts. By contrast in Navalny’s case the facts are heavily in dispute, there is an immense number of them and the devil will be in the detail. Such a case requires the defence to take a completely different approach from the one the defence should have taken but failed to take in the Pussy Riot case.

    3. As I do not know the full facts it is impossible for me to give a final assessment, but it does seem to me that Navalny does have three possible defences:

    (1) that he was not directly involved in the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov but was merely a disinterested middleman; and

    (2) that the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov were legal bona fide commercial transactions carried out at arms’ length; and/or

    (3) that Navalny sincerely believed that the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov were legal bona fide transactions carried out at arms’ length and had no criminal intention when he was involved in those transactions.

    In relations to (3), there must be a criminal intention (mens rea) for a conviction for this sort of offence even if the timber that was taken should not have been taken (actus reus). If Navalny sincerely but wrongly believed that the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov were legitimate then he is not guilty even if they were not and he was wrong to believe it.

    4. It seems that the emails and other evidence refute defence (1). I strongly suspect that the reason Navalny is for the moment sticking by this defence despite its problems is because his direct personal involvement in the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov were incompatible with his status as a pro bono adviser to the Kirov Regional Government. However the three defences are not incompatible with each other and there is no reason why Navalny cannot argue all three. I suspect that as defence (1) falls away, he will come increasingly to rely on defences (2) and (3). When he does the prosecution will surely bring up the incompatibility of Navalny’s status as a pro bono adviser to the Kirov Regional Government with his personal involvement in the transactions between KirovLes and Ofitserov and will say that this calls into question Navalny’s honesty and therefore proves his criminal intention. That is a problem that Navalny’s lawyers will have to deal with at the trial if and when it comes up. However for the moment I think Navalny is right to stick with this defence since for the moment it closes off that argument, which it is in Navalny’s interest to avoid having at too early a stage in the trial.

    5. The success of defence (2) will depend heavily on the skill with which Navalny’s defence team cross examine the prosecution witnesses. Defence (3) only becomes really relevant if defence (2) falls away. Its success will depend on Navalny’s own performance in the witness box. As should be obvious this is a case that demands a skilled advocate and trial attorney (a Lee Bailey) rather than (as in the Pussy Riot case) a jurist.

    6. I cannot comment on which Article of the Russian Criminal Code should apply to this case. In trials in Britain it is possible for the Court to find a defendant guilt of a different charge from the one that appears in the original indictment even if the charge on which the defendant is eventually found guilty is one which is not actually mentioned in the original indictment. I don’t know whether this is possible in Russia. If it is then the question of whether Navalny is being charged under the correct Article or not may not be important except (in the event he is found guilty) when he is sentenced.

  3. Fedia Kriukov says:

    I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_VQeHLcziV_Vm9SM3FFOWVFR0k/edit?usp=sharing An alleged analysis of the case from an alleged American law firm. Probably will be very relevant in the forthcoming intensification of the propaganda war.

    • D. The Indictment… Does Not Describe any Crime


      • Dear Fedya,

        I am afraid as a legal analysis it is entirely worthless. The authors of this report whoever they are make their pro Navalny bias obvious from the first paragraph and the whole analysis proceeds on that basis. The report puts altogether far too much weight on the fact that the case was investigated before and not pursued. That is irrelevant to a proper legal analysis, which should be based on an analysis of the existing decision to prosecute Navalny on the basis of the current investigation and not on the previous conclusions of a different investigation. When this is all over the two investigations can be reviewed and compared but that is a job for a historian or a journalist not a lawyer who should confine his analysis to the existing case, which is the one that will be argued in the court.

        Also I am afraid that the claim that the indictment does not show a crime is almost certainly equally flawed. I have to use the words “almost certainly” because obviously I have not read the indictment in its original Russian. However, as I hope I have made clear, in my opinion there is a prima facie case against Navalny and that means by definition that Navalny does therefore face a genuine charge for a genuine crime. I genuinely do not know at the moment whether a crime was in fact committed because the case at the moment has not been proved, there are potential defences (I have discussed them) and the evidence is highly contentious and disputed. That will depend on the evidence as it comes out during the trial during the cross examination of the witnesses.

        • The report puts altogether far too much weight on the fact that the case was investigated before and not pursued.

          I would also imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) that abandoning and then resuming cases might be more prevalent in countries like Russia where prosecutors only put forwards cases which have a 99% chance of conviction. So a small drop in that probability = case is no longer worth pursuing; a small uptick = let’s take it up again. Is this a valid way of looking at things?

        • I have not read the indictment in its original Russian.

          I have. Navalny’s buddy bought half a million worth of timber and sold it on at a whopping premium of $40,000. End of story. Pathetic.

          • Fedia Kriukov says:

            Pathetic indeed. They didn’t fully pay for the timber they bought from KirovLes (3 million rubles) and the reason they were able to buy from KirovLes to begin with was because Navalny used his government position to force KirovLes to sell to his shell company. This pathetic embezzlement scheme should’ve resulted in Navalny getting a suspended sentence, but since he chose to make it political (like the Pussies), he might easily get his real two years (like the Pussies).

            • This pathetic embezzlement scheme…

              In your opinion, how much did they actually embezzle?

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                Based on the facts in the indictment, ~3 million rubles KirovLes didn’t get paid out of ~16 million, plus additional damage in the form of forcing KirovLes to sell below its previously established prices. Naturally, it’s up to the court to determine if these facts are true.

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                Actually, maybe Alexander Mercouris could help clarify the terminology. I’ve been using the term “embezzlement” for Navalny’s actions, but it might not be right term for what he’s actually charged with, which is “растрата”. The dictionary defines it as misappropriation or defalcation. The important difference with my understanding of “embezzlement” is that the prosecution does not need to show that the defendant personally benefited from the misappropriated funds, i.e. that it was a theft. If there is no element of theft for personal gain, can the term “embezzlement” still be applied?

              • Based on the facts in the indictment, ~3 million rubles… plus additional damage…

                Not even close.

                Таким образом, Опалев В.Н., действуя совместно с Навальным A.A., организовавшим и руководившим совершением преступления, и Офицеровым П.Ю., с использованием своего служебного положения генерального директора КОГУП «Кировлес», из корыстных побуждений, противоправно растратил находящееся в его ведении чужое имущество в виде лесопродукции КОГУП «Кировлес» объемом 10 084,277 кубических метров на сумму 16 165 826,65 руб., то есть в особо крупном размере, в пользу третьих лиц – соучастников преступления и подконтрольного им ООО «ВЛК», чем причинил имущественный ущерб собственнику данного имущества – КОГУП «Кировлес».

                Своими умышленными действиями Навальный А.А. организовал совершение преступления и руководил исполнением растраты, то есть хищения чужого имущества, вверенного виновному, в особо крупном размере, то есть преступления, предусмотренного ч.3 ст.33, ч.4 ст.160 УК РФ (в ред. Федерального закона от 07.03.2011 №26-ФЗ).

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                The correct answer is still 3 million. But if you want to claim that Navalny and Co embezzled 16 million, I won’t stop you, you Surkov propaganda. 😉

              • The correct answer is still 3 million.

                Well, no, unpaid debt and embezzlement are not quite the same thing.

                But if you want to claim that Navalny and Co embezzled 16 million, I won’t stop you, you Surkov propaganda.

                Let’s have a vote: so, which is it?

                a) The indictment does not describe any crime (peter, Kudrin)

                b) ~3 million rubles (Fedia, AK?)

                c) All of 16 million (Putin, Bastrykin, Surkov propaganda)

                d) “Obviously I have not read the indictment” (Alexander)

                Any more takers?

            • Fedia Kriukov says:

              Wrong, Pete.

              If the debt to a state enterprise was incurred in bad faith and was facilitated by abuse of a government office, it’s embezzlement (or whatever the appropriate English term is for растрата).

              • Wrong, Pete.

                What exactly?

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                Your implication that debt can’t be considered a form of embezzlement.

              • The word “form” is a bit ambiguous, so I’ll say it explicitly:

                Unpaid debt and embezzlement are not quite the same thing: failure to pay a debt does not necessarily constitute embezzlement. Right?

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                We’re discussing a specific case, not some general debt that may or may not constitute embezzlement. In this specific case, failure to repay a debt assumed in bad faith and accompanied by abuse of office constitutes embezzlement. If you don’t believe that debt assumed and not repaid under such circumstances constitutes embezzlement (or some other crime), you need to explain why.

              • … failure to repay a debt assumed in bad faith and accompanied by abuse of office constitutes embezzlement.

                Pseudo-legalese mumbo-jumbo detected, did Alexander suddenly possess you? Can you say it in human language please?

                Let’s start over, one step at a time. In your opinion, a) who conspired b) with who c) to steal what exactly, d) how much did they eventually steal, and e) where’s the loot?

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                Dear Pete, I stated it as plainly as possible. If you still don’t understand it, maybe something is lacking on your side? Honestly, your real stupidity or feigned incomprehension is needlessly dragging out this discussion. You might imagine that your barrage of dumb questions resembles the Socratic method, but in reality it just prevents the discussion from coming to any sort of resolution in an adequate amount of time.

                Anyway, I’ll humor you one last time.

                a) Navalny conspired
                b) with Ofitserov
                c) to embezzle (not steal) money (or whatever other appropriate English term is to be used for растрата)
                d) whether they stole remains to be seen, but they deliberately caused damage to the tune of 3,1 million in unpaid debt + discount they forced Kirovles to take through abuse of gov’t office
                e) Earth to Pete: the charges are under Article 160, and as one lawyer helpfully pointed out, there’s no need to establish the motive of personal gain under this article. If you think that a crime exists only if you personally keep the “loot”, then you need to get your head out of your ass and read the Criminal Code. The damage they caused is a fact, and they must pay for it. Deal with that reality. Having said that, if the investigation digs deep enough, I expect the evidence of theft will be uncovered as well.

              • … to embezzle (not steal)…

                Not sure what you’re trying to say here. Embezzlement is, by definition, stealing property you’ve been entrusted with:

                Статья 160. Присвоение или растрата

                1. Присвоение или растрата, то есть хищение чужого имущества, вверенного виновному…

                … they deliberately caused damage to the tune of 3,1 million in unpaid debt + discount…

                None of this is embezzlement as defined in Article 160 (see above).

                … the charges are under Article 160, and as one lawyer helpfully pointed out, there’s no need to establish the motive of personal gain under this article.

                Как растрата должны квалифицироваться противоправные действия лица, которое в корыстных целях

              • Fedia Kriukov says:

                Try to quote the full sentence next time.

                Как растрата должны квалифицироваться противоправные действия лица, которое в корыстных целях истратило вверенное ему имущество против воли собственника путем потребления этого имущества, его расходования или передачи другим лицам.

                …Or transfer to other persons.

                To answer your question about where the money is, Ofitserov has it, thanks to Navalny’s abuse of office.

                So to summarize. You have a case of embezzlement if:
                1) You’re entrusted with a property
                2) You transfer it to another party
                3) Against the will of the rightful owner
                4) For personal gain

                Which of these don’t apply in Navalny’s case, in your amateur opinion?

          • That’s great, but why was VLK in debt to Kirovles to the tune of 3.1 million rubles at the moment of the latter’s bankruptcy?

        • Fedia Kriukov says:

          I agree that the “analysis” is worthless, but I wanted to point out that this particular analysis might be more important than anything else written about the Navalny case simply because it’s a) in Englsih b) from an American lawyer c) organizes all pro-Navalny propaganda points in one spot. It’s a godsend for lazy western journos and I expect that Navalny will start peddling it for all it’s worth. Thus, it might be a good idea for Anatoly to take it into account for his forthcoming series of posts.

          On the angle of the case being previously dropped, from what I remember, back then patriotic bloggers widely assumed that Belykh, his patron, used the so-called “administrative resource” to get the local case dropped. So, if Navalny claims that the Russian justice system is corrupt, then the counterargument is that he used that corruption to his advantage to avoid responsibility for his criminal activity. Why should we believe that the system is corrupt when it tries to put him away, and not when he was let off the hook the first time?

  4. Patrick Armstrong says:

    Hah! I knew someone less lazy than I would have a rational discussion somewhere that I could steal. Thank you Anatoly and Alexander.

  5. Tory Torrison says:

    Thanks to all of you. Facscinating.

  6. Shashank says:

    Adviser of Governor nikita belykh, votvinov have been sentenced to penal colony.

  7. Dear Fedya,

    “Embezzlement” is not a crime with which I am familiar because it no longer exists as a separate crime in England where it has been absorbed into the general crime of theft. My understanding of emblezzlement as it used to exist under English law is that it was a financial crime: the theft of money held on trust by the thief for someone else. For example a bank manager or a lawyer who stole money held in a client accounts would once in England (and I believe still in parts of the US) have committed the crime of “embezzlement” whereas today the crime would simply be called theft.

    It is quite clear to me that the part of the Russian Criminal Code that deals with crimes that relate to the theft have been amended and differ a great deal from the from the English translations of this part of the Russian Criminal Code that are available to me. For example, I understand that Navalny has been charged with theft under Article 160 Part 4 of the Russian Criminal Code (which is the Article that deals with the crime of “embezzlement”) but the translation of Article 160 available to me has only three parts.

    If Navalny were being charged in England for a crime arising from these facts that crime would certainly be theft. The definition of theft is set out in Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968

    “A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”.

    An “appropriation” is an assumption of the rights of the owner over the property (Section 3).

    In my (defective) translation of the Russian Criminal Code theft is defined in Article 158 as “…the secret larceny of other of other people’s property”, “larceny” being defined as “….the unlawful, uncompensated seizure and/or the appropriation of other people’s property, committed with a mercenary purpose by a guilty person or by other persons, which has injured the owner or any other proprietor of this property”.

    That is not so very different from the English definition of theft. In both cases there needs to be a dishonest appropriation of someone else’s property. If my translation of Article 158 is still correct, then Russian law has two requirements, which are different from those in the English law, which are

    1. That the thief must have some mercenary purpose (ie. an intention to gain) from the theft (which please note is not the same as saying that the thief has actually gained from the theft). This is completely different from the position in English law. In English law it is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit (see section 1(2) of the Theft Act 1968); and

    2. That the actual owner must have suffered some injury as a result of the theft. This requirement does not exist under English law.

    In practice these differences, if they still exist, will hardly be relevant in the vast majority of cases though difference (1) is relevant in Navalny’s case (see below). Overall and allowing for the possibility of amendments to the substantive law since my translation of Articles 158 and 150 was made, we are I think justified in saying that the English and Russian definitions and conceptions of theft are essentially the same.

    Navalny is not being charged with theft under Article 158 but withr “embezzlement or misappropriation” under Article 160. According to my translation this is “the stealing of other people’s property entrusted to the convicted person”. In other words the Russian concept of embezzlement appears to extend the concept not just to the theft of money held on trust but to the theft of all forms of property held on trust. However it is important to understand that what we are at all times talking about is theft. “Embezzlement of misappropriation” is simply a type of theft the definition of which is as I said before if my translations can be relied on in English and Russian law very similar.

    Is Navalny guilty of theft? First of all one has to ask the question: what exactly did he steal? I have not read the indictment and cannot do so but as I understand what he and Ofitserov are accused of stealing is KirovLes’s timber, which presumably in order to meet the criteria of Article 160, must in some way have been entrusted to them by KirovLes. If Navalny and Ofitserov are being charged with stealing the timber, then the only figure that is relevant is the value of the timber they are supposed to have stolen, which I understand is 16 million roubles. The question of the 3 million roubles, which is the sum the shell company supposedly paid to KirovLes for the timber would in that case be a red herring. If I steal your $50,000 Cadillac but then pay $30,000 into your bank account, what I have stolen is a $50,000 Cadillac not £20,000. The fact that the shell company paid for the timber may be evidence that there was no wrongful appropriation of the timber (see below). However if Navalny and Ofitserov are being accused of stealing the timber then it is simply not meaningful to ask whether they stole 16 million roubles or 3 million roubles. They would not be charged with stealing money to the value of 3 million roubles but of stealing timber to the value of 16 million roubles. To ask such a question is to misunderstand the charge and to conflate the defence with the charge.

    Of course the alternative is that Navalny and Ofitserov are being accused of stealing money to the value of 3 million roubles. I have to say that if this is so, then it is completely different from everything about the case I have heard up to now. Could someone please clarify this point for me. It is important.

    The second question is was there a wrongful appropriation of the timber? That will depend entirely on whether or not there was a bona fide commercial transaction at arms’ length between KirovLes and the shell company. Opalev says that there was not. Navalny and Ofitserov say that there was. If there was a bona fide commercial transaction at arms’ length then there was no wrongful appropriation of the timber. What happened instead was a valid transfer of ownership in the timber carried out through the shell company. This is the defence (2) that I referred to above.

    The third question is whether even if there was a wrongful appropriation of the timber was Navalny acting dishonestly? Both English and Russian law require this. This is the defence (3) that I referred to above.

    Please note that in a case such as this the fact that the timber was paid for (that 3 million again!) is not decisive in deciding this question of dishonesty. Section 2(3) of the English Theft Act 1968 says this clearly

    “A person’s appropriation of property belonging to another may be dishonest notwithstanding that he is willing to pay for the property”.

    whilst my translation of Article 158 says that all that the offence requires in Russian law is a “mercenary intention” on the part of the thief and an “injury to the actual owner” (which in this case would be 3 million roubles) even if the timber was purportedly paid for.

    I simply cannot say at the moment on the basis of the evidence I have seen that Navalny (and Ofitserov) are definitely either innocent or guilty. The case does seem to be very strong but as I have said already a lot will depend on the evidence Navalny, Ofitserov and the witnesses give under cross examination. I have genuinely not made up my mind about this case. In England the Crown Prosecution Service would not bring such a case unless it was at least 75% sure of a conviction. Based on what I have so far seen of the prosecution case in my opinion the case comfortably passes that criterion. That is not the same as saying that the case is watertight. I am not going to come to a view until I see how the case actually develops. What I would say is that Navalny if he is to have any chance at all needs to stick to the facts and to give a clear explanation of what happened. Political speeches from the witness box will do him no good and could be fatal, especially if they give the Court the impression that he is indulging in them to avoid answering questions.

    • PS: Apologies for a comment full of typos. I am not feeling too good today but I am getting concerned that the discussion is going astray. I hope what I said is clear enough.

      • PPS: Viz my comment above: “The question of the 3 million roubles, which is the sum the shell company supposedly paid to KirovLes for the timber, is a red herring” contains an error. What it should say is “The question of the 3 million roubles, which is the difference in the amount the shell company paid to KirovLes from what the prosecution say was the timber’s true value, is a red herring.” I notice that I also used a sterling sign instead of a dollar sign at one point in the next sentence. Apologies for all this and I hope no great confusion has been caused. As I said I am not too good at the moment and I am not concentrating well. I’ll be myself tomorrow.

    • If I steal your $50,000 Cadillac but then pay $30,000 into your bank account, what I have stolen is a $50,000 Cadillac not £20,000.

      Not in Russia.

      Article 158. Theft

      1. Theft, that is, the secret larceny

      Notes. 1. In the Articles of this Code, larceny means the unlawful, uncompensated seizure and (or) appropriation…

      • Dear Peter,

        The translation reads “and/or appropriation” or (as you translate it) “and (or) appropriation. In other words there can be (1) an uncompensated seizure and (2) an appropriation. Unless the Russian word that is translated into English as “appropriation” has a totally different meaning in Russian from what the word “appropriation” has in English then the definitions of theft are as I said very similar and essentially the same.

        I am (obviously) not familiar with Russian jurisprudence but I doubt that the meaning of the two words can actually be very different. The translation of the Russian Criminal Code I am using is intended to be used by lawyers and the translator in choosing to translate the Russian word with the English word “appropriation” would know what meaning that word has in English and for English language lawyers. Also since the Russian Article specifically refers to both “uncompensated seizure” and “appropriation” that must mean that the two are different in Russian as well as in English, which again points to the Russian word that is translated into English as “appropriation” having the same meaning as the English word.

        As I said I am not well at the moment, but since you have read the indictment could you help me by answering my question, at least to your understanding: are Navalny and Ofitserov charged with stealing (1) timber to the value of 16 million roubles or (2) money to the value of 3 million roubles? My entire understanding of the case to date is that it is (1). If you believe it is (2) could you provide me (and, if it is not too much trouble, translate for me) the exact words of the indictment that you think say (2)? I am going to sign off now to try to get rest and get some sleep but if you can do this by tomorrow that would be great. Thanks in anticipation.

        • In other words there can be (1) an uncompensated seizure and (2) an appropriation.

          No, there can be (1) an unlawful, uncompensated seizure and (2) an unlawful, uncompensated appropriation.

          … are Navalny and Ofitserov charged with stealing (1) timber to the value of 16 million roubles or (2) money to the value of 3 million roubles?


          • Dear Peter,

            First of all, thank you for clarifying the nature of the indictment.

            Secondly, I am afraid we must agree to disagree about your first point. Quite apart from the fact that there would be no point in the Article referring to both an “uncompensated seizure” and an “uncompensated appropriation” because in legal terms the two would then to all intents and purposes mean the same thing, the translation I have which as I said was made for use by English lawyers and legal scholars specifically translates the phrase as “and/or the appropriation”. I appreciate that the word “the” does not exist in Russian but its insertion in the English text clearly conveys the meaning that “appropriation” is distinct and different from “uncompensated seizure”.

            Again without knowing the Russian jurisprudence I can only express what is at the end of the day a tentative opinion but I am familiar with the way legal texts are drafted and this makes sense to me. It is presumably also what the lawyers who work for the Procurator General’s Office and the Investigative Committee think is the case otherwise they would not have brought the case they have.

    • Fedia Kriukov says:

      Thank you very much for your explanation, Alexander. It appears, embezzlement is an appropriate translation for what Navalny is charged with.

      To clarify, the issue about 3 million vs 16 million is my own theory based on the facts published thus far. The indictment charges Navalny with embezzling the full 16 million because the contract Ofitserov’s shell company entered into with Kirovles was forced on Kirovles by Navalny’s abuse of office. The damage caused to Kirovles is the discount on timber they were forced to give to the shell company. Navalny disputes by claiming that it was a legit contract, it benefited the company, and he had no connection to Ofitserov… but there’s a ton of circumstantial evidence now (phone calls, emails) that show that Navalny is lying through his teeth on this.

      • Dear Fedia,

        This is a fair summary.

        Incidentally you seem to be one of the few people who has grasped the importance of the alleged abuse of office. Navalny was supposed to be a pro bono adviser to the Kirov Region Government. I find it very difficult to see how his involvement in the deals between KirovLes and the shell company is compatible with that status given (1) that Navalny was an adviser not an executive and (2) that he was supposing to be providing his advice pro bono, which means he should not have benefitted from it whether directly or indirectly. In itself obviously this is not a crime but it does call into question Navalny’s motives and his actions and I am sure the prosecution will raise it at the trial. Of course if Navalny actually used his status with the Kirov Regional Government to engineer these deals between KirovLes and the shell company (which is what the prosecution says) then that is even worse.

        The one observation I would of course make is that when you say “that Navalny is lying through his teeth” that of course the prosecution’s interpretation of the evidence. I have to say that at the moment that does look like the most likely view but I have not yet heard his account and perhaps we should wait until we hear what Navalny has to say.