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Russia's Navalny Calls For Fresh Anti-Putin Street Protest In Moscow

Navalny, a leader of the antigovernment protests in 2011-12, is currently serving two suspended sentences on theft convictions, which he says were politically motivated. (file photo)

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has called for a street demonstration in Moscow later this month to protest the four-year anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement that he intended to return to the Kremlin after serving as prime minister.

Navalny said he and his supporters would take to the streets of the Russian capital on September 20 to protest what's been dubbed the "castling" announced by Putin and then-President Dmitry Medvedev at a congress of the ruling United Russia party in September 2011.

"This sleazy, fraudulent move by two fraudsters, carried out at a congress of fraudsters, became a turning point in modern Russian history," Navalny wrote in a September 3 post on his website.

This month's protest would be the first large-scale street demonstration organized by the Russian opposition since early March, when tens of thousands of Russians marched through central Moscow to mourn the slaying of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov days earlier.

Putin served as president from 2000 to 2008 before ceding the post to Medvedev, his handpicked successor, and assuming the Russian premiership for four years.

The tandem's announcement on September 24, 2011, that they intended to swap places was one of several key triggers for a wave of massive demonstrations in Moscow in the subsequent months that became the largest antigovernment street protests in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since returning to the Kremlin in May 2012, Putin's government has tightened control over the political and media landscape and targeted critics with criminal cases in what is widely seen as an orchestrated crackdown on dissent.

Navalny, a leader of the antigovernment protests in 2011-12, is currently serving two suspended sentences on theft convictions. He denies wrongdoing and says the cases against him are politically motivated.

He wrote on September 3 that organizers would apply soon for permission with Moscow authorities to hold the event, which he said would be "completely safe and authorized."

Moscow authorities have previously denied Kremlin critics permits to hold antigovernment demonstrations in the city center, saying such events present safety concerns and would disrupt daily life.

Navalny and other prominent opposition leaders have previously been detained or arrested while attempting to attend demonstrations that were not authorized by Moscow authorities.

In February, a Moscow court sentenced Navalny to 15 days in jail for distributing flyers promoting an unsanctioned opposition protest, ruling that he violated laws on mass gatherings by passing out leaflets for the planned March 1 protest in Moscow.

Navalny's jailing prevented him from attending the rally, which turned into a march mourning Nemtsov, who was gunned down near the Kremlin on February 27.

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