David J. Kramer is president of the nonprofit Freedom House, which recently published the report “Contending With Putin’s Russia: A Call for American Leadership.”
Overlooked amid the focus on the Boston bombings and the suspects’ links to Russia is the latest example of the systematic abuse of human rights under Vladimir Putin.
Alexei Navalny, 36, is on trial this week on charges of stealing $500,000 from a timber firm in 2009, a case that was previously closed for lack of evidence. He is the most recent victim of the Putin regime’s use of government agencies and courts to punish and marginalize opponents.
Russian officials have opened several spurious investigations into Navalny, designed to publicly discredit him. His family and friends are also being investigated, a guilt-by-association trick of the Soviet era. Since Navalny publicly described the ruling clique as the “party of crooks and thieves,” he has become a key figure in the opposition and a leader in exposing government corruption. He signaled interest in running for president in 2018, and his name recognition among Russians has soared from 6 percent to 37 percent, according to a recent Levada Center poll, leading the Kremlin to view him as a threat. If he is found guilty — Putin’s critics are rarely acquitted — he would be disqualified from public office.