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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny been fined by a Moscow court for organising an illegal demonstration.
In a defiant court appearance a day after he was arrested alongside more than 1,000 others during mass protests Mr Navalny denied organising illegal protests across Russian cities – marking the biggest show of defiance against president Vladimir Putin for years.
On Monday, a Moscow court imposed a Rbs20,000 fine on the opposition leader.
At the same time, the Kremlin rejected calls from the EU and US to release detained protesters, and accused organisers of paying teenagers to attend.
Mr Navalny, who has vowed to challenge Mr Putin in next year’s presidential election, called for anti-corruption rallies after releasing a film that accuses prime minister Dmitry Medvedev of amassing a real estate empire worth far more than his official salary would afford.
“I do not admit guilt. People are unhappy with corruption, so they went to a peaceful action,” Mr Navalny said on Monday in the Tversky court in Moscow, according to an Interfax press report.
“Hello everyone from Tversky Court. The time will come when we will have them on trial (only honestly),” the 40 year old activist wrote on his Twitter account before his hearing.
Mr Navalny is charged with organising an unsanctioned rally. He says that authorities did not provide a venue for the rally.
Sunday’s protests, which took place across Russian cities, resulted in the largest number of simultaneous arrests in Moscow, surpassing the 2012 total when police violently dispersed a protest against Mr Putin’s return to the Kremlin.
The numbers of demonstrators were considerably larger than previous rallies against Mr Putin’s administration.
Dimitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, said on Monday that the Kremlin respected people’s right to “state [their] civil position, but in a legal format.”
The Kremlin “has no intention of either underrating or overrating” the scope of Sunday’s demonstrations, Mr Peskov added.
Image via AFP