Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested Sunday during a huge demonstration in Moscow against government corruption.
He was sentenced to 15 days in jail for resisting police orders.
Navalny organized Sunday’s protests in Moscow and in about 80 other cities across Russia.
Police arrested thousands of demonstrators, including about 600 in Moscow.
Navalny, 40, is Russia’s leading anti-corruption activist.
Earlier this month, his Anti-Corruption Foundation published a report accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption.
The report alleged that Medvedev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, amassed a $1 billion fortune and owns mansions and yachts, a vineyard in Italy, and an 18th-century palace near St. Petersburg.
Navalny called for Sunday’s protests to push for a government investigation of Medvedev and high-level graft.
In February a court convicted Navalny of embezzlement. The judge gave him a five-year suspended sentence.
Navalny has always denied wrongdoing and claimed he was prosecuted to remove him from politics. The Russia Supreme Court threw out an earlier embezzlement conviction, ruling that Navalny didn’t receive a fair trial.
He announced in December last year that he would be a candidate in the 2018 presidential election. But the embezzlement conviction likely blocks him from seeking political office.
Putin hasn’t said whether he’ll run again.
Navalny leads the opposition Party of Progress. He led mass protests in December 2011 against parliamentary elections he said were rigged.
He also led protests in Moscow after Putin’s re-election in March 2012. Navalny has called Putin “the Tsar of corruption.”
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation said in an emailed statement that in some places Sunday, like Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk, police didn’t interfere at all.
“In other cities, however, various tricks were used by the government to prevent protesters from gathering at designated places,” the group said.
“For example, in Omsk local authorities played loud music next to the square where the rally was held and ordered snow-cleaning machines to start driving right through the square.”
The Anti-Corruption Foundation said demonstrators in Moscow blocked the paddy wagon with Navalny and prevented it from moving for almost an hour.
The group issued an update late Sunday saying agents “from unknown security services” raided its offices and seized all computers and cameras.
In a statement posted Monday, the U.S. State Department said the “United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday.”
Acting spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads.”
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.
Curious that Navalny's efforts singled out Medvedev when the center of Russian corruption is Putin. Why is that? Could it have something to do with Navalny's supported Putin's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine – which he did?
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