Vladimir Putin’s Russia: Criticize the Government and Your Family Will Be Locked Up in a Penal Colony

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The show trial of one of Vladimir Putin’s chief political critics ended today. He was convicted and banned from political office for ten years, but the sentence was suspended and he immediately joined a protest march upon his release. So what happened next?

The police in Moscow briefly detained the anticorruption crusader and political opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny on Tuesday as he tried to join an unauthorized, antigovernment rally, just hours after a Moscow court had given him a suspended sentence on criminal fraud charges. Yet, in a sign of how unwilling the authorities are to make a martyr of Mr. Navalny, they said later that the police were merely escorting him back to his home, Interfax reported.

Well, that’s not so bad. Maybe Putin is lightening up a bit. Except for one little thing:

His brother Oleg was jailed for three and a half years for the same offence….Navalny’s supporters said the Kremlin was returning to the sinister Soviet-era practice of punishing the relatives of those it disliked. Upon hearing the verdict, mumbled quietly by the judge, Yelena Korobchenko, Alexei Navalny rolled his eyes and looked at his brother.

….Oleg Navalny is the father of two small children and a former executive of the state-owned postal service. Unlike his better known brother, he has never played a role in the Russian opposition movement. His imprisonment in a penal colony seems to echo the Soviet-era practice of arresting the relatives of “inconvenient” people.

So they let Aleksei go free in order to keep him from being a martyr, but tossed his brother into prison as a hostage to his good behavior. Charming. A spokesman admitted that Putin “had been aware of the Navalny case, but that Tuesday’s ruling ‘isn’t important enough to merit a special report’ to the president.” I actually believe this. For Putin, it’s just another day at the office.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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