Russian protest leader Navalny gets 15 days in jail


Associated Press

MOSCOW

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who organized a wave of nationwide protests against government corruption that rattled authorities, was jailed for 15 days Monday by a Moscow court for resisting police orders.

Navalny was arrested Sunday as he walked to a protest in Moscow and spent the night in jail before appearing in court.

Tens of thousands of anti-corruption demonstrators took to the streets across Russia on Sunday in the biggest show of defiance since 2011-12 anti-government protests. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Monday chided opposition organizers for putting people’s lives at risk in the unauthorized protests and defended the actions of Russia’s helmeted riot police, which critics called heavy-handed.

Journalists and well-wishers Monday packed the courtroom in central Moscow where Navalny was taken. He posted a selfie on Twitter from there, saying: “A time will come when we’ll put them on trial too – and that time it will be fair.”

The 40-year-old Navalny, Russia’s most popular, charismatic opposition leader, has been twice convicted on fraud and embezzlement charges that he has dismissed as politically motivated. Navalny, who is serving a suspended sentence, has also recently announced his bid to run in Russia’s 2018 presidential election.

“Even the slightest illusion of fair justice is absent here,” Navalny told reporters at the defendant’s bench, complaining about the judge striking down one motion after another. “Yesterday’s events have shown that quite a large number of voters in Russia support the program of a candidate who stands for fighting corruption. These people demand political representation – and I strive to be their political representative.”

The Kremlin has dismissed the opposition as a Westernized urban elite disconnected from the issues faced by the poor in Russia’s far-flung regions. Yet Sunday’s protests included demonstrations in the areas that typically produce a high vote for Putin, from the city of Chita in eastern Siberia to southern Dagestan’s capital of Makhachkala.

Russian police say about 500 people were arrested in the protests Sunday, but a human-rights group published a list of detainees that has more than 1,000 names.

On Monday, the European Union called on Russian authorities to release the demonstrators.

Putin’s spokesman chided the organizers for inciting illegal acts.

“The Kremlin respects people’s civic stance and their right to voice their position,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We can’t express the same respect to those who consciously misled people and who consciously did it yesterday and provoked illegal actions.”

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