If his conviction stands, Navalny will, by law, not be able to run for public office. It's not an uncommon law. Convicted felons in the United States, for example, are also prohibited from doing so.
But Navalny hopes through his protests to one day overturn that law, which he calls part of "Putin's system."
Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, said that while the guilty verdict came as no surprise -- as "the culmination of a criminal prosecution brought for political reasons with a preordained conclusion" -- the sentence was still shocking.
It can only be seen through a political lens, as part of a broader government crackdown to silence a fierce critic and the opposition movement, she said in an online statement.
"Russia's new laws are aimed at putting public life in Russia under greater government control, and Navalny's prosecution is meant to silence a leader and messenger," she said.
Rights group Amnesty International added its voice to the chorus of condemnation.
The charges against Navalny were "highly questionable," and "the way his guilt was supposedly proven raises serious doubts," said John Dalhuisen, the organization's Europe and Central Asia program director.
"This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial. The case was twice closed for lack of evidence of a crime, before being reopened on the personal instruction of Russia's top investigator," he said.