Russia protests: Kremlin critic Navalny jailed, hundreds arrested
MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was found guilty late Monday of calling repeatedly for unlawful protests and sentenced to 30 days of detention, his spokeswoman said, following a day of nationwide anti-corruption demonstrations.
Navalny, in court in Moscow, accused the judge of helping the police write the justification for his arrest.
His wife, Yulia, reported Navalny was detained at his Moscow home.
“30 days,” Navalny tweeted after the sentencing. “Not only they robbed the whole country, but I’ll miss Depeche Mode concert in Moscow because of them.”
The arrest of Navalny, 41, came as thousands of protesters clashed with police in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The opposition leader, who plans to run against Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election, had mobilized support on social networks in the hope the rallies would rattle the Kremlin.
Hundreds of arrests
Nearly 1,400 people were arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Monday, according to OVD, an independent group monitoring arrests.
The group said 825 people were detained during protests in the capital and 548 arrested in St. Petersburg.
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs earlier in the day posted different numbers for the two cities: 150 in Moscow and 500 in St. Petersburg.
Earlier Monday, Russian authorities warned the public and declared the planned rally in the capital was illegal.
“Law enforcement agencies will be forced to take all necessary measures to stop provocations, mass unrest or any actions leading to a violation of public security, creating conditions for threatening the life and health of citizens,” the prosecutor general said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer condemned the arrests and called on Russia “to release all peaceful protesters.”
“The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia,” Spicer said, calling it “an affront to core democratic values.”
Clashes with police
Photographs and videos posted on Twitter showed large numbers of police at Tverskaya Street, a main thoroughfare near the Kremlin. The protesters shouted “Putin is a thief,” “Putin out” and “Russia without thieves.” Pictures on social media showed police putting gas masks on.
Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, posted on Twitter that tear gas was used against her.
Teenager Anna Meigan said she was detained as she protested in Moscow.
“My sister and I went to an anti-corruption rally. We left the Pushkinskaya metro station and after five minutes the riot police ran up to us and dragged us to the police bus, which after a few minutes was already crowded with people,” the 18-year-old told CNN via text message.
There was also a large police presence in St. Petersburg, where protesters chanted “shame” during a rally at the Field of Mars park.
More than 200 towns and cities signed up for protest rallies to mark the Russia Day public holiday, according to Navalny’s social media. The opposition leader said earlier they would proceed regardless of whether the government allowed them.
In March, thousands joined protests in almost 100 cities across Russia, angered by a report Navalny published accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption. Medvedev has denied the claims.
Navalny was arrested, along with hundreds of others, and jailed for 15 days after being convicted of disobeying a police officer.
His election campaign comes despite him being convicted of embezzlement and given a suspended sentence in February. Russian laws prohibit convicted people from running for office. Navalny says the charges against him are politically motivated.
CNN’s Tim Lister and journalist Mary Ilyushina reported from Moscow. CNN’s Diana Magnay reported from St. Petersburg, Russia, and CNN’s Elizabeth Roberts reported and wrote from London. CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan in New York also contributed to this report.
By Tim Lister, Mary Ilyushina, Diana Magnay and Elizabeth Roberts