Protests Hit Moscow After Anti-Putin Activist Alexei Navalny Sentenced To Five Years In Jail

Protests are taking place in Moscow this evening after vocal Putin critic Alexei Navalny was today sentenced to five years in prison for theft.

Freelance journalist Ilya Mouzykantskii is at the scene. He tweets that around 8,000 people are gathering at Manezhnaya Square, adjacent to Re Square, in central Moscow:

 

The protest is not officially sanctioned, and Russian authorities have closed the square. They claim it is undergoing “road repair,” though many are spectical:

 

There also appears to be a heavy police presence in the square:

 

The crowd outside the square is said to be chanting “freedom” and passing cars are reportedly honking in support:

 

The protest is already pretty big, and it looks like it could be getting bigger.

While the Pussy Riot trial may have gotten more international headlines, Navalny’s trial may have more repercussions in Russia.

Navalny emerged as a serious political force following protests after the disputed 2011 Duma elections, becoming perhaps the most popular personality in the Russian opposition. He has previously announced his intention to run for president, and had been planning to run for mayor of Moscow this summer, though his conviction will now disqualify him.

A lawyer by training, Navalny campaigned fiercely against corruption the country — his Livejournal blog published detailed accounts of financial crimes committed by pro-Kremlin officials, and even managed to cost a few their jobs.

We will be updating this post as more information becomes available

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