MOSCOW, July 20 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow police said Saturday that supporters of Alexei Navalny may face up to three years in jail for leaving “offensive” graffiti and stickers during a rally against the opposition leader’s conviction.
Thousands gathered in central Moscow and in Russia’s largest cities Thursday night, hours after Navalny was sentenced to five years in jail on embezzlement charges during a trial that was internationally condemned as Kremlin’s retaliation for his role in massive rallies against Vladimir Putin’s return to presidency last year.
The walls and doors of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, were covered with hundreds of stickers reading "Change Russia. Start from Moscow" with Navalny’s name and face on them – along with sometimes obscene graffiti denouncing Putin and “the party of crooks and thieves,” a phrase the anti-corruption blogger coined to ridicule the Kremlin’s United Russia party.
Moscow police said in a statement that the yet unidentified protesters who left the stickers and graffiti will be charged with vandalism and face hefty fines and up to three years in jail.
Navalny was released on Friday pending an appeal at the request of the prosecution, which said his premature detention would harm his bid for the Moscow mayoral elections on September 8. He said that Thursday’s protests contributed to his release.
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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.