Russian Court Sentences Opposition Leader Navalny to 30 Days in Jail

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More than 200 towns and cities were signed up for protest rallies to mark the Russia Day public holiday according to Navalny's social media.

"Since the 1990s, we have seen courageous women in Russia's civil groups and journalism, who choose to [take a] risk and make a difference because they are free people and want to live in a free Russian Federation", said Tatiana Lokshina, program director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow.

"The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, though you wouldn't know it from the alarming scenes today".

The rallies suggested Kremlin opponents are able to draw significant crowds despite police pressure and arrests.

Navalny's anti-corruption videos have needled the country's ruling elite and drawn crowds to the streets not seen since the protests against President Vladimir Putin's reelection for a third term in 2012.

Putin is up for re-election in 2018.

Monday's Moscow demonstration had been authorized at a different location, but late Sunday night Navalny told his followers to move it to the city's central Tverskaya street, where they did not have permission, arguing authorities had tried to sabotage the event.

There was no immediate comment from police on why Navalny had been arrested or where he was taken. When the thousands of demonstrators arrived in Moscow, the street was blocked by sandbags, tank traps and medieval tents - props from a historical reenactment festival that had been organized for the national holiday.

As police led the demonstrators to police vans, some of the protesters shouted, "Shame!", "Putin is a thief!" and "Freedom to Navalny!" The national anthem played on loudspeakers.

Around 1,800 people, according to police estimates, showed up at the original location on Sakharova Street, and the demonstration concluded without any major incidents, according to Moscow police. After about an hour, police had cleared large areas of the street. In another freaky incident, actors playing the role of Stalin-era secret police handed over a protester to genuine police officers.

The BBC said riot police in the capital were detaining protesters at random. "What kind of country do we live in when I can't put a Russian flag on my shoulder?"

The protests were the biggest antigovernment outpouring in Russian Federation in years, with more people in more cities heeding Navalny's call than his last series of demonstrations in March. Both wore small rubber ducks on their heads, symbols of the opposition movement ever since Navalny made a video, which has been viewed over 22 million times, about Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's ill-gotten wealth, including a luxurious estate with a duck house on a pond. The government denied that.

The Moscow Prosecutor's Office warned Navalny that holding a demonstration on Tverskaya Street would violate the law and law enforcement would be compelled to take necessary measures. Numerous protesters who followed him were young and male - but not all of them, by far.

After the March rallies attracted an estimated 60,000, the biggest unrest in five years, Putin vowed to punish people who broke the law.

Although it was not immediately clear if Monday's protests were larger in aggregate than the March demonstrations, the rallies underlined the deep dismay with the government.

Another CNN journalist Diana Magne, who was in St. Petersburg, in turn, noted that similar protests are going to "YouTube generation", which receives information from the Internet, including teenagers, "who have never known anything other than Putin's reign", in other words "generation Putin". In St. Petersburg, dozens were reported detained by police at the protest.

By calling crowds into the very centre of Moscow, Alexei Navalny has set the stage for a confrontation.

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