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Putin critic Navalny says 'ready for prison'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Charismatic Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who goes on trial in just over one week, said Monday that he was mentally prepared for a prison sentence and had even packed a bag of clothes to take to jail.

In an interview published in opposition New Times weekly, Navalny said that he was ready to be imprisoned in his embezzlement case, which he believes is being personally directed by President Vladimir Putin.

"Mentally, I am ready for this. I have prepared for it: I've written out powers of attorney and discussed with my wife many times how and what we'll do."

"If they jail me, they jail me," Navalny said defiantly.

His embezzlement trial will begin April 17 in the northern city of Kirov. It concerns an obscure business deal struck by the regional government which he advised in 2009.

Navalny's pessimistic comments come days after he for the first time late week declared having the ambition of standing for Russian president, saying: "I want to change life in this country".

Navalny, who insists he is innocent, said he believed Putin was "personally giving directions" in the embezzlement case and was likely to jail him for up to ten years rather than give him a suspended sentence.

Both outcomes would preclude him from ever holding office.

"He (Putin) and his entourage need to hold onto power. And to keep power they have no other mechanisms than to put people in prison -- as they do."

"I'm not the first and unfortunately not the last -- we should expect that they will jail many more people."

Nevertheless, he speculated that Putin may have hoped he would flee abroad ahead of the trial, since he was given advance warning of his charge and the start of the trial.

"I won't run away, I won't go into emigration," he vowed.

Navalny said he had even worked out what he would need for his first days in prison.

"What will I take to prison? Slippers, tracksuit bottoms, pants, socks and trainers without an insole and with Velcro fasteners," he said.

"You need trainers without laces right at the moment when they put you under guard in the courtroom."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130408/putin-critic-navalny-says-ready-prison