Putin critic Alexei Navalny jailed for 20 days

Opposition leader hopes to run in Russia’s March poll despite being declared ineligible

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny (centre)  at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, today. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny (centre) at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, today. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

 

A court sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 20 days in jail on Monday on charges of repeatedly violating laws governing the organisation of public meetings and rallies.

The specific charges against the veteran dissident relate to an October 7th rally in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, which has not been sanctioned.

Mr Navalny was detained by police on Friday as he left his Moscow home to attend a pre-election rally in a provincial town.

The Russian law on public gatherings that was hastily adopted following massive anti-government rallies in 2011-2012 carries 30 days in jail for repeated violations.

Grassroots campaign

After he announced his presidential bid last year, Mr Navalny, arguably Russia’s most popular opposition politician, inspired a grassroots campaign in the regions to support his nomination.

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, today. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA
Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny at the Simonovsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, today. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Russia is to hold a presidential election in March, which incumbent Vladimir Putin is widely expected to contest.

Mr Navalny still hopes to run, despite Russia’s central election commission declaring him ineligible because of a suspended prison sentence which he says was politically motivated.

After the court ruling, Mr Navalny tweeted: “20 days in jail. Old man Putin got so scared of our rallies in the regions and decided to make himself a little present for himself for his birthday.”

The St Petersburg rally was scheduled for Saturday, which is also Mr Putin’s birthday.

Mr Navalny’s campaign called for rallies scheduled for other Russian cities this Saturday to protest at his arrest.

Reuters/AP