MOSCOW -- Russian actors have held individual protests in front of the presidential administration in Moscow against the imprisonment of Pavel Ustinov, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for resisting police during a protest rally last month he insists he did not participate in.
About 100 actors took minute-long shifts on September 18, with each holding a placard demanding Ustinov's release. Russian law allows holding so-called single-picket protests without the need to ask for official permission.
Police were present at the action and one officer tried to interfere, saying that the protesters were holding the same poster, which might be considered a mass protest.
However, he left the area after the actors argued that since each protester would fold up the poster and put it on the ground, the pickets constituted a single-person protest even if the next person were to pick it up from the ground.
After that additional posters, saying "Who is next?" and "I, you, and the whole country" appeared in the protesters' hands.
The Kremlin said it was aware of the public campaign to free Ustinov, but insists that his case should go through all the legal motions.
"If you want to know whether we are aware of actions supporting Ustinov, yes, we are," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Interfax.
However, Peskov cautioned not to jump to conclusions, saying that "perhaps, we should wait for" the outcome of Ustinov’s court appeal.
"This is the only substantive element," he added.
A court in Moscow found Ustinov guilty of verbally insulting police and assaulting a National Guard officer during the August 3 rally and sentenced him on September 16. He is himself a former National Guard officer.
Ustinov pleaded not guilty, saying he was standing nearby and did not take part in the rally last month at which activists challenged the refusal by officials to register opposition and independent candidates for Moscow city-council elections that took place on September 8.
Ustinov's imprisonment has sparked an outcry among the entertainment community, as well as from teachers and even some members of the Moscow city council.
The August 3 rally was part of a wave of demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of Russians onto the streets of Moscow.
Police violently dispersed several of the protests and more than 2,000 people were detained, drawing international condemnation.
A number of those detained have received jail sentences.