HUFFINGTON POST

Putin Foe Navalny Freed But Still Under Kremlin's Thumb

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny arrives in court for a hearing of his case in the provincial northern city of Kirov on
Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny arrives in court for a hearing of his case in the provincial northern city of Kirov on April 24, 2013. A Russian court in Kirov reopened today the trial of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of embezzlement and may face up to a decade in jail if convicted. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday returned to Moscow a free man after a court in the northern Kirov region turned his five-year penal colony sentence in a controversial fraud case into a suspended term.

Accompanied by his wife Yulia and co-accused Pyotr Ofitserov who was also allowed to walk free, Navalny arrived at Yaroslavsky railway station in Moscow on the night train from Kirov to a welcome of flowers and kisses from supporters.

Looking relaxed and happy, Navalny chose to make no comment to the media and drove off with his wife in a waiting car.

After the court's ruling on Wednesday, Navalny warned not to see the verdict as a victory as the court left his conviction in place in the controversial embezzlement case he alleges was ordered by the Kremlin.

Experts said that under current Russian laws the verdict will disqualify Navalny for the entire five years of his suspended term, keeping him out of presidential elections in early 2018.

Copyright (2013) AFP. All rights reserved.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Alexei Navalny