Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been released from a Moscow jail after serving 30 days for violating Russia's restrictive protest laws.
"I have no doubt that despite genuine acts of intimidation and terror that are happening now as random people are being arrested that this wave [of protests] will increase, and this regime will seriously regret what it has done," Navalny told reporters after he emerged from a Moscow detention center on August 23.
Moscow and other Russian cities have witnessed a series of protests -- some authorized, some not -- sparked by a decision by election officials to bar dozens of independent candidates from an upcoming municipal elections in the Russian capital.
Thousands of supporters calling for them to be put on the ballot have been detained by police in the Moscow protests, with videos of riot police beating demonstrators widely circulated. The demonstrations have spread to other cities as well.
Navalny, a vocal Kremlin critic, was sentenced last month to 30 days for calling on people to take part in one of the unsanctioned Moscow rallies.
Some of the barred candidates, who are linked to Navalny or his Anti-Corruption Foundation, have faced harassment, including arrests and home searches, as well as random attacks. In the latest incident, a Navalny associate was attacked near his home in St. Petersburg on August 22.
"Now we see that lies and fraud are not enough for them. It's not enough for them to ban candidates from an election. They deliberately want to arrest dozens and to beat up hundreds.... This shows that there is no support for this regime. They feel this and they are afraid," Navalny also told reporters on August 23.
While in jail, Navalny was taken to a hospital with a severe facial rash that doctors said was an allergic reaction. Some supporters suspected he was poisoned. He spent some 19 hours in the hospital before returning to the detention center.
The head of the jail where he was serving his sentence asked a Moscow court on August 22 to delay his release by the time spent in hospital, but the court rejected the move.
The protests started shortly after election officials in the Russian capital in July barred dozens of independent candidates from running in municipal elections in September.
The election officials said the candidates had not submitted enough legitimate signatures to get on the ballot. The would-be candidates rejected that claim, accusing city authorities of denying them the chance to take on pro-Kremlin candidates.
The Moscow City Duma, which has 45 seats, is responsible for a $43 billion municipal budget and is now controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its seats, which have a five-year-term, are up for grabs in the September 8 vote.
Of the 30 or so candidates barred from the poll, five are affiliated with or work for the anti-corruption foundation established by Navalny, including Lyubov Sobol, a key protest organizer, who has been detained by police several times as well.
Russian authorities have also targeted Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, opening a criminal probe against it on August 3 on suspicions of receiving funding with illegal origins.
Navalny and his allies say the foundation is transparently financed from public donations.
Meanwhile, Olga Guseya, the deputy head of staff of Navalny's St. Petersburg branch, said she was attacked near her home on August 22. In a Twitter post, she said the hooded attacker tried to pour an unidentified liquid on her but that she was unharmed.