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Russian Court Hands Down First Criminal Sentence To Participant In January's Pro-Navalny Rallies

More than 10,000 supporters of Aleksei Navalny were detained across Russia during and after rallies in January. (file photo)

KOSTROMA, Russia -- A court in Russia's Volga city of Kostroma has sentenced a man to 18 months of forced labor on a criminal charge for attacking a police officer during January 23 rallies against the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

The Sverdlov district court said on March 2 that a 26-year-old Kostroma resident pleaded guilty to pushing a hat off of a police officer's head and kicking the officer from behind as police moved in to detain demonstrators.

The court ruled that the man will be placed in a specialized correctional center, where he will work at an industrial facility for 18 months. Ten percent of his salary will be given to the state.

The news website Mediazona identified the man as Aleksei Vinogradov.

OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group, says the sentence is the first in a criminal case against someone who took part in the pro-Navalny rallies in January.

The nationwide demonstrations held on January 23 and 31 protested the arrest of the Kremlin critic who was detained at a Moscow airport on January 17 upon his arrival from Germany, where he was recovering after being poisoned in Siberia in August by what several European labs concluded was a military-grade chemical nerve agent.

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Navalny has insisted that his poisoning was ordered directly by President Vladimir Putin, which the Kremlin has denied.

Last month, a Moscow court ruled that, while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case, which is widely considered to be politically motivated.

Navalny's 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the case was converted to a jail term, though the court said he will serve 2 1/2 years in prison given time he had been held in detention.

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More than 10,000 supporters of Navalny were detained across Russia during and after the January rallies.

Many of the detained men and women were either fined or handed several-day jail terms. At least 90 were charged with criminal misdeeds, and several people were fired by their employers.

With reporting by OVD-Info and Mediazona