Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny jailed for 15 days over protests

The Kremlin has dismissed the allegations, and on Monday rejected calls from the USA and release protesters who were still being held, accusing organizers of having paid some of the crowd to attend.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was among hundreds of people who got arrested Sunday during anti-corruption protests across the country.

At a news conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "There is information that underage participants of the demonstration in Moscow were offered money if they were detained".

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Russian Federation on Sunday in the biggest sign of defiance since protests erupted in 2011 and 2012.

Sunday's demonstrations come at a time when the safety of critics of Vladimir Putin is under scrutiny. Like the protests that exploded on their streets five years ago, these were an unexpected breach in the façade of indifference and acceptance that the Kremlin had worked so hard to erect.

Sunday amounts to "the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 wave of demonstrations that rattled the Kremlin and led to harsh new laws aimed at suppressing dissent", says the AP.

"Police operations in the Russian Federation prevented the exercise of basic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly - which are fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian constitution", read the statement. Russia's leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his su.

The Russian opposition leader also appeared in court on Monday where he was fined for the minimum 20,000 roubles (AU $460) for his role in organising the protests, which authorities said was illegal.

In this photo provided by Evgeny Feldman, Alexei Navalny is detained by police in downtown Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 26, 2017.

"We can't respect people who deliberately misled minors - in essence children - calling on them to take part in illegal actions in unsanctioned places and offering them certain rewards to do so, thus putting their lives at risk", said Peskov.

Russian human rights group OVD, cited by The Moscow Times, put the number of arrests at 1,400 nationwide, with more than 1,000 in Moscow.

Mr Navalny's use of social media symbolises his political style, reaching out to young followers in sharp, punchy language, mocking the establishment loyal to President Vladimir Putin.

Thousands of demonstrators attended rallies in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and several other cities, as well as in Moscow, said the report.

"The question now is what kind of balance between propaganda and repression the government will choose", said Andrei Kolesnikov, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center. Washington echoed the sentiment, with State Department spokesman Mark Toner describing the arrests as an "affront to core democratic values".

A court in Moscow issued the ruling after Navalny was detained on Sunday as he made his way to a massive protest in the Russian capital.

The 40-year-old Navalny, Russia's most popular opposition leader, has had three convictions on fraud and embezzlement charges that he dismisses as politically motivated.

  • Leroy Wright