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Russian Blogger Released From Jail As New Duma Convenes


Frequent government critic Aleksei Navalny is seen through the bars of a prison window in Moscow on December 7.

Frequent government critic Aleksei Navalny is seen through the bars of a prison window in Moscow on December 7.

A prominent Russian blogger and anticorruption gadfly jailed for taking part in protests against recent parliamentary elections for a new State Duma has been released from jail.

Aleksei Navalny left a jail in southern Moscow early today after completing his 15-day jail sentence.

His release came with the newly elected Duma hours away from its first session and critics of the vote vowing to continue their protests.

Dozens of supporters and some journalists were on hand as Navalny walked free from jail.

"What has happened is just wonderful: We [went] to prison to serve our 15-day sentence in one country but were released in a different one," Navalny said. "I am absolutely confident we will prevail. Protest activities will continue [and] we will keep coming to the streets until our legitimate and sensible demands are met."

Navalny was one of about 300 people arrested at a Moscow rally on December 5, a day after parliamentary elections that protesters charge were rigged in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev's United Russia party.

On December 10, Moscow saw the biggest protest in a decade when around 50,000 people gathered on a square near the Kremlin to demand a repeat of the elections.

Further protests are planned for December 24, with more than 30,000 people having already confirmed their participation on social-networking site Facebook.

United Russia holds 238 seats in the 450-seat lower house, the Communists 92, pro-Kremlin A Just Russia 64, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party 56.

Analysts say protesters are now likely to begin focusing on the presidential election scheduled for March 4.

"Our strategy for the presidential elections is very simple. Our strategy for the parliamentary elections was to vote for any party but against the party of swindlers and thieves," said Navalny.

"Now the party of swindlers and thieves is nominating its chief swindler and thief for president," he said in what's become a frequent opposition label for United Russia. "Naturally, we need to vote against him, to fight against him. And all those 50,000 [or] 70,000 people that came to the streets in Moscow and other people across the whole country should become a perfect propaganda machine and explain to all the population that this man is a swindler and a thief so he can't be the president of our big and wonderful country."

based on Reuters and RFE/RL reports
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