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Outcry As Russian Opposition Activist Gets New Sentence


This photograph shows Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front organization, being detained during a protest in Moscow on October 12.

This photograph shows Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front organization, being detained during a protest in Moscow on October 12.

Russia's opposition has denounced as a disgrace a Russian court's decision to jail a leading opposition activist for another 10 days.

Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the Left Front group, had been due to be released December 25 after already being jailed for 15 days.

He had been detained at a rally protesting alleged widespread vote fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections.

During his time in prison, Udaltsov went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized, with his supporters voicing fear about his health.

Late December 25, a Moscow court sentenced him to 10 more days in jail for allegedly resisting police during a protest he staged October 24.

The new sentence came one day after tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations across Russia, demanding new, fair elections and an end to rule by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Prominent opposition blogger Alexei Navalny denounced Udaltsov's sentence as a "reprisal" by the authorities.

"This is just a reprisal against an opposition activist,” Navalny told Reuters news agency. “And what is going on now is quite weird, because on the one hand the Kremlin is saying that it is worried about possible disorders, but on the other hand they are doing everything to cause these disorders. Today's absolutely unlawful court decision is a step in this direction."

Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who is now an opposition leader, denounced the case as "despicable" and said it showed Russian authorities were in crisis.

"They (authorities) were scared to do it yesterday when there were 100,000 people protesting, and today they are trying to show their power by extending this cruel punishment for Sergei Udaltsov," said Kasparov. "It's despicable and it shows that this regime is in agony."

Prime Minister Putin’s spokesman has meanwhile said Putin continues to have the support of the majority of Russians.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russians should "treat the opinion of a majority with respect."

The comments came after the December 24 demonstrations across Russia, and after Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, urged Putin to follow his example and step down.

Speaking in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Gorbachev said that if Putin heeded protesters' demands and stepped down now, he would be remembered for the positive things he did during his 12 years in power.

compiled from agency reports

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