A series of single pickets were staged on Moscow's Pushkin Square on December 28 to call for the release of Russian political prisoners, including individuals convicted or still facing possible punishment for summertime protests over municipal elections in the capital.
The picketers included popular student blogger Yegor Zhukov, who received a three-year suspended sentence earlier this month after being found guilty of inciting extremism online in connection with the summer protests.
Anti-government demonstrations mounted in July against the official exclusion of opposition candidates from ballots in Moscow before a harsh police crackdown on July 27 that drew criticism in the West for its perceived "disproportionate" and "indiscriminate" use of force.
Russian authorities characterized unauthorized demonstrations in July and August as "mass riots," allowing them to prosecute protesters under Article 212 of the Criminal Code.
Fourteen people who attended anti-government rallies over the summer have been sentenced, with 11 of them receiving prison terms ranging from one to 5 1/2 years.
The July 27 rally drew about 10,000 people after weeks of demonstrations over the Moscow elections, making it the largest unsanctioned challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule in seven years.
Police forcibly dispersed the crowd at that event and detained more than 1,300 people.
But protests -- some with permits and others without official clearance -- continued for weeks.
One of two men convicted on December 24 was the last person still in pretrial custody in connection with the July protest.
Russian officials subsequently accused Germany and the United States of interference in connection with the protests -- allegations that Berlin and Washington rejected.