The cat-and-rat game between Navalny and the Kremlin thus continues.

But maybe it is now entering a new phase.

Until August last year, the authorities locked Navalny for a few days or a week at regular intervals.

Navalny reacted with almost playful defiance and biting irony.

But in August, it became bloody serious.

An assassination attempt with the neurotoxin Novitjok was costing him his life. 

Navalny himself, and many with him, are convinced that it was President Putin personally who was behind the assassination attempt.

So the Kremlin may now think it's time to take the hard gloves seriously.

Arranging a sentence of a couple, three years in prison is easy.

This will lead to sharp condemnation from the outside world.

But in recent times, Putin has made it clear that he does not care what others think.

But Putin also loves to surprise.

Maybe it will be the other way around: Navalny is free and with permission to continue to hack Russia's corrupt rulers.

He still does no major damage.

Continued long road to democracy

In September, there are parliamentary elections.

For Russia's opposition, the hope is that the popular discontent that actually exists in the country will be felt then.

But Putin's ruling party, United Russia, is likely to gain an overwhelming majority.

Even if Navalny succeeds in inspiring voters to vote for opposition candidates to a greater extent than before, the result is likely to be what the Kremlin wants.

As Stalin said: The important thing is not how people vote.

The important thing is who counts the votes. 

The road to democracy remains long here.

There are no real political parties.

There is no independent judiciary.

There is no significant free media.

Corruption is worse than ever, many say.

And it is the revelations about corruption in the circles of power that have given Navalny the influence he has.

But there is not much to suggest that Navalny - or anyone else in Russia, for that matter - is a leader who can build a functioning democracy, for the first time in the country's history.