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Russian opposition activist Leonid Volkov (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has sentenced a senior aide to Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to 15 days in jail -- just hours after he completed a 20-day sentence for live streaming an unsanctioned rally in Moscow in September 2018 against an increase in Russia's retirement age.

Moscow's Tver district court on June 10 found Leonid Volkov guilty of organizing a public rally against the increase of the retirement age in St. Petersburg in September that hindered traffic. Volkov was brought to trial immediately after he completed his 20-day sentence over the Moscow rally.

The director of Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation, Ivan Zhdanov, said earlier that investigators threatened to charge Volkov with holding unsanctioned rallies against the pension reform in eight other cities.

On May 22, a Moscow court found Volkov guilty of inciting demonstrators to violence by broadcasting the September 2018 Moscow rally on social media. It said demonstrators scratched a parked car and slightly injured two police officers.

Volkov was arrested in Moscow on May 21 and was originally charged with organizing an unsanctioned rally. It was unclear why the charges were changed.

Volkov is a project manager at Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation, which has published several reports documenting alleged corruption in circles close to President Vladimir Putin, and led Navalny's campaign ahead of the March 2018 presidential election.

Navalny was barred from taking part in that election because of past convictions that he and his supporters say were fabricated to keep him out of electoral politics.

On September 9, Navalny and his supporters organized mass rallies in Moscow and other cities against the government's decision to raise the retirement age. Police detained more than 1,000 demonstrators across the country.

(illustrative photo)

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine -- Russian security forces have detained eight Crimean Tatar activists after searching their homes in Ukraine's Russian-controlled Crimea region, a Ukrainian human rights group says.

An RFE/RL correspondent reports from Crimea that Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Riza Omerov, his father Enver Omerov, Eskender Suleymanov, Ayder Dzhepparov, Ruslan Mesutov, Ruslan Nagayev, Eldar Kantemirov, and Lenur Khalilov on June 10 after searching their homes in the districts of Alushta, Bilohirsk, and Simferopol.

A Crimean lawyer, Mammet Mambetov, said on Facebook that during the search, Riza Omerov's wife, who is seven months pregnant, went into premature labor and was rushed to the hospital.

The FSB said that its officers searched several homes in Crimea belonging to individuals suspected of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine.

In late March, the FSB detained 20 Crimean Tatars, also on suspicion of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, following house-to-house searches in Simferopol -- the regional capital and home to many Crimean Tatars -- and nearby districts.

Since Russia seized the peninsula in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars for allegedly belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities in Crimea who are targeting members of the Turkic-speaking Crimean Tatar community and others who have spoken out against Moscow's takeover of the peninsula.

In its annual report on religious freedom worldwide, released on April 29, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that "[in] Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian authorities continued to kidnap, torture, and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims at will."

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.

Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed some 13,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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