2014-12-31 10:00:00

Russia Police Detain Over 100 Opposition Activists

(Vatican Radio) Russian prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny and as many as 200 other protesters have been detained at a rally near the Kremlin in central Moscow during one of Russia's boldest demonstrations in years. Navalny had called for protests after his brother was sentenced on charges to jail in what critics viewed as a politically motivated trial. 

Most were later released, but at least eighteen others, including members of a punk provocateur punk band, were arrested early Wednesday after spending the in central Moscow, activists said. 

Listen to the report by correspondent Stefan Bos: 

Thousands of people braved the cold and rallied near Red Square after Alexei Navalny, a leading anti-corruption campaigner and rival of President Vladimir Putin, was found guilty of fraud. He was given a suspended sentence of three-and-a-half years, but his brother Oleg was sent to prison. 

The Navalny brothers were accused of stealing 30 million roubles, around $500,000 at the current exchange rate, from two companies, but they have denied the charges. 

“Aren’t you ashamed?" Alexei Navalny told a Moscow court. "Why are you putting my brother in prison? To punish me even harder? How disgusting!”


Soon after demonstrators took to the streets. Police urged them to disperse and detained up to 200 protesters. Among those detained was Alexei Navalni. He was later brought home where he has been under house arrest since February.

The United States has condemned the crackdown, explained U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke. "We are troubled by the guilty verdict handed down in the latest action against Alexei and Oleg Navalny," he told reporters.

"The decision is a disturbing development in our view. And, it appears to be designed to further punish and deter political activism," Rathke added. 

It also added to worsening East-West tensions, with the U.S. end the European Union already angered over Russia's perceived support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. 

Tuesday's verdict had been scheduled for next month, but the court session was abruptly moved forward to the day before New Year's Eve, the main holiday in Russia.

The Kremlin says it has no influence over judges and denies any involvement in the case against the Navalny brothers.   

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