Russian opposition leaders sentenced to jail

May 9, 2012 - 1:47 PM
Russia Protest

Police detain a member of the Left Front movement in downtown Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 9, 2012. The cat-and-mouse game between protesters and police began on Monday, the day of Putin's inauguration at a formal ceremony inside the Kremlin. Hundreds of activists tried to protest near Red Square and along the route Putin's motorcade took to the Kremlin, but they were turned back or detained by thousands of riot police. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

MOSCOW (AP) — Two of Russia's most prominent opposition leaders were sentenced Wednesday to 15 days in jail, while several dozen opposition activists who tried to stage a "people's stroll" through the city reportedly were detained.

The sentencing of Sergei Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny came after several days of attempts by opposition activists to hold unauthorized protests against Vladimir Putin, who was inaugurated for a third term as Russian president on Monday.

Udaltsov and Navalny were detained Sunday when participants in an authorized protest march tried to veer from their sanctioned route and head to the Kremlin. They were released after a few hours, but detained again Tuesday in another unauthorized demonstration. Navalny was released early Wednesday, then detained again a few hours later at another opposition gathering.

Both were sentenced for failing to obey police orders.

Separately, the state news agency RIA Novosti cited an unidentified law enforcement official as saying dozens of people were detained on Wednesday afternoon on Manezh Square adjacent to the Kremlin.

According to the report, opposition supporters wearing trademark white ribbons had earlier taken part in a rally by the Communist Party marking the Victory Day holiday, then tried to stage the so-called "people's stroll."

Police could not immediately be reached for further comment.

The wave of massive protests that broke out in Moscow after December's fraud-marred parliamentary elections had been marked by little interference from police. Demonstrators, whose numbers sometimes appeared to exceed 100,000, stuck carefully to approved venues and march routes; police presence at these rallies was extensive but restrained.

However, police have taken swift and sometimes brutal action to break up unauthorized demonstrations, while the opposition appears to be determined to try to maintain its momentum.