Navalny is one of the most prominent figures of the Russian liberal opposition and an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin.
On Sunday, Navalny took part in large anti-government protests in Moscow – largest since 2012. The protesters gathered to demand resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, after an alleged corruption scandal.
Navalny, who was arrested on Sunday together with dozens of protesters, was found guilty of disobeying a police officer and sentenced to 15 days in jail. He said he will appeal the court’s verdict and told reporters in the Moscow courtroom that he and his allies would not give up.
“You can’t detain tens of thousands of people,” he said. “Yesterday we saw the authorities can only go so far.”
More than 1,000 protesters were detained in cities across Russia on Sunday as crowds took to the streets, at Navalny’s urging, to express their disapproval with Medvede’v government and demand his resignation.
Both U.S. and the EU were quick to call for Moscow to release free detainees, including Navalny.
The Kremlin dismissed the protests as an illegal provocation and rejected U.S. and European Union calls to free detainees like Navalny.
“We can’t agree with these calls,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call, saying the police had been professional and properly enforced Russian law.
Peskov stated that the Kremlin had no problem with citizens expressing their opinions at protest meetings, but the timing and location of the protests had to be agreed with authorities in advance. City authorities in Moscow did not give permission for Sunday protests.
“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.
Photograph: REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva