Only days after snap protests against Russian PM Dimitry Medvedev and government corruption broke out across numerous Russian cities, leading to the detention of hundreds of protesters, the most prominent being opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, the Russian opposition activist was found guilty of staging an unsanctioned rally, and will be fined 20,000 rubles (US$350) for his role in organizing anallegedly illegal protest in Moscow.
The Russian protests, the biggest anti-Kremlin demonstration since 2011/2012, come a year before a presidential election that Vladimir Putin is expected to contest, running for what would be a fourth term.
The same court was due to hear later in the same session a separate charge against Navalny of disobeying a police officer.
“Those [the event’s organizers] who claimed on the previous day in pseudoacademic language that the event was lawful and in no way violated the law – they were telling blatant lies,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
Navalny was detained by the police shortly after arriving at the anti-corruption protest in Moscow on Sunday. He was charged with violating a law on public gatherings. Moscow police have confirmed they detained some 500 demonstrators.
Approximately 8,000 people were involved in the Moscow protest in, law enforcement officials reported. As the rally grew more volatile, police used loudspeakers to call on the protesters to disperse.
Protesters decided to to ahead in spite of failing to obtain a permit from the mayor’s office to hold a rally at an approved site. The authorities had suggested two alternative venues, which the organizers rejected. Similar rallies, some unsanctioned and others permitted by local authorities, were attended by thousands of people across Russia on Sunday.
On Monday the Kremlin rejected calls by the United States and the European Union to release opposition protesters detained during what it said were illegal demonstrations the previous day and accused organizers of paying teenagers to attend.
On Sunday, the U.S. and the European Union both issued statements calling on Russia to free detained protesters, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday such calls were wide of the mark. “We can’t agree with these calls,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call, saying the police had been professional and properly enforced Russian law.
The protestors demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev’s spokeswoman has called corruption allegations against him “propagandistic attacks,” saying they amount to pre-election posturing by Navalny, who hopes to run against Putin next year.
According to Reuters, which cites opinion polls, the liberal opposition, which Navalny represents, has little chance of fielding a candidate capable of unseating Putin, who enjoys high ratings. But Navalny and his supporters hope to channel public discontent over official corruption to attract more support.
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