European Union demands release of Russian anti-corruption protestors

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after being detained at a major opposition protest that he had organised.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a hearing after being detained at the protest against corruption and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, at the Tverskoi court in Moscow March 27, 2017.

Separately, police arrested Navalny's associates who were at their office, setting up and monitoring a webcast of the Moscow rally.

The lawyer turned activist, who has announced plans to run for president next year, called Sunday's protests after publishing a report accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of amassing lavish properties through a murky network of non-profit organisations.

On December 30, 2014, Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky Court found the Navalny brothers guilty of embezzling Yves Rocher funds and sentenced Alexey Navalny to a suspended sentence of 3 years and 6 months with a probation period of five years.

"We can not respect those who deliberately misled underage minors promising them some payment in return for participating in an unauthorized protest, thereby exposing them to danger", Peskov said, according to state-run news agency Tass.

Junior Judge Alesya Orekhova said Navalny was accused of disobeying the orders of police officers during the Sunday rally.

The unsanctioned protests were the biggest public gatherings since the 2011/2012 anti-Kremlin demonstrations.

Russian state media, meanwhile, mostly ignored the day's events, save for earlier cursory coverage, and no comments have been reported from top Russian politicians.

Keir Giles, a director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, told VICE News that the demonstrations, though not large in size, were remarkable in Russia's modern political climate.

"We also call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to guarantee their citizens the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression", the ministry said in a statement.

The march in Moscow was not sanctioned by the authorities.

"Now the authorities have to think what to do about that: most likely there will be a combination of kind of placating from one side and going and putting a lot of people behind bars", said Felgenhauer.

It called on Russian Federation to abide fully by its worldwide commitments to uphold those rights "and to release without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained".

"Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values", said Mark Toner, acting spokesman for the State Department.

"We can't agree with these calls", said Peskov, saying the police had been professional and properly enforced Russian law. But this weekend's protests took place in cities across the nation.

In a tweet after his detention, Navalny had urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration.

  • Leroy Wright