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Arrests As Navalny Conviction Ignites Russian Protests


A supporter of Aleksei Navalny is detained by police in central Moscow on July 18.
A supporter of Aleksei Navalny is detained by police in central Moscow on July 18.
MOSCOW -- Russian riot police and Interior Ministry troops have detained dozens of demonstrators after thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest the conviction and jailing earlier in the day of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

Near Manezh Square in central Moscow, police dragged demonstrators into police vans as thousands clapped in protest and chanted, "Freedom!" and, "Putin is a thief."

Police cordons heavily restricted movement and protesters to clear the vicinity.

"Respectfully, citizens, Manezh Square is closed, please, leave the territory!" police told the crowd.

LIVE BLOG of the post-verdict protests

Throngs of activists also spread out along the sides of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, and along over adjacent streets.

A number of protesters climbed the Duma building and occupied exterior ledges of the second floor, in many cases displaying placards or signs assailing President Vladimir Putin, whose latest stint in the Kremlin has helped fuel Navalny's rise as a prominent opposition voice.

At one point on July 18, protesters burst onto downtown Moscow’s main thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street, which leads to the Kremlin.

Police said 2,500 demonstrators came out, but opposition activists said the figure was nearer to 10,000.

ITAR-TASS put the number of arrests at around 100 in the capital.

The Moscow protest did not have official approval from authorities. A Moscow City Hall spokesman had warned that "unsanctioned events will be stopped" and their organizers "held accountable."

Ahead of the rally, over 10,000 protesters who organized themselves on Facebook were careful to bill the event as a simple "discussion" of Navalny's sentence.

But they have been unable to gather where they intended, on Manezh Square near the Kremlin walls, as riot police in urban camouflage sealed off access, ostensibly because the square is undergoing maintenance.

PYOTR OFITSEROV: The Man Who Stood Beside Navalny To The Bitter End

The spiritual home of the opposition, Bolotnaya Square, was also fenced off and closed -- purportedly for a Formula One rally to be held this weekend.

More than 30 opposition activists were reportedly detained in St. Petersburg.

Activists also held 25 smaller rallies across Russia's nine time zones -- from Kaliningrad in the west to to Vladivostok in east -- to denounce Navalny's conviction and five-year prison term along with a roughly $15,000 fine on charges of embezzlement.

Navalny and his supporters say the charges are fabricated and are revenge for his opposition activities.

POWER VERTICAL: Final Curtain On A Tragicomic Trial

In Kirov, where Navalny was sentenced, several activists marched on the detention center where he was being held, leading to scuffles with police. At least two were detained.

Navalny, a 37-year-old anticorruption campaigner and opposition leader, was convicted and immediately taken into custody earlier on July 18. Prosecutors accused him of embezzling 16 million rubles from a state-owned timber company in the city of Kirov, approximately 1,000 kilometers east of Moscow.

Kirov businessman Pyotr Ofitserov received a four-year sentence and similar fine in the same case.

Navalny and Ofitserov were immediately taken into police custody.

Hours after the verdict, however, the Prosecutor-General's Office said the detention of Navalny and Ofitserov was unlawful because the sentences do not go into force until the appeals process is complete. A court is due to hear the prosecutor's appeal of the detentions on July 19.

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