Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Opposition leader returns to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has returned to Moscow after his surprise release from jail and says he will push forward in his campaign to become mayor of the capital.

Mr Navalny was sentenced to five years in prison on an embezzlement conviction on Thursday in the city of Kirov, but prosecutors unexpectedly asked for his release the next morning.

They said that keeping him behind bars during the appeals process of his conviction would deprive him of his right to run for office.

A day before the conviction, Mr Navalny was registered as a candidate for the September 8 mayoral election.

Hundreds of police blocked Mr Navalny supporters from the platform of the Moscow railway station where his overnight train from Kirov arrived on Saturday morning.

Through a loud speaker, he addressed supporters who were behind the police lines and on nearby station platforms, thanking those who turned out for a large demonstration near the Kremlin protesting against his sentence on Thursday, which he credited as key in securing his release.

"I realise that if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be standing here for the next five years. You have destroyed a key privilege that the Kremlin has been trying to keep - that it is their alleged right to say to any person 'arrest him on the spot'," said Mr Navalny, who claims that the case against him was concocted for political reasons.

Mr Navalny is one of the most visible and charismatic leaders of the opposition to President Vladimir Putin and the governing United Russia party. His description of United Russia as the "party of crooks and thieves" has become a signature phrase of the opposition.

Immediately after his release, Mr Navalny said he had not decided whether to continue his mayoral campaign. But on Saturday he declared "we are going to run in this election and we will win".

His supporters shouted: "We are the power."


From Belfast Telegraph