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Thousands Rally Near Red Square in Support of Putin Critic Alexei Navalny

Protest in Moscow After Putin Critic's Conviction 1:03

MOSCOW — Several thousand people rallied near Red Square on Tuesday to protest the conviction of the top Kremlin critic and his brother, in one of the boldest opposition demonstrations in Russia in years.

The unsanctioned protest came hours after Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner and chief foe of President Vladimir Putin, was found guilty of fraud and given a suspended sentence of 3-1/2 years. His brother was sent to prison.

The convictions are widely seen as a political vendetta for Navalny's role as a leading opposition figure. Navalny, who has been under house arrest since February, broke its terms to attend the rally and was rounded up by police as he approached the site of the protest. Navalny later tweeted that police drove him home and blocked him from leaving his apartment.

The protesters, who gathered on the square, chanted: "We are the power!" and "You won't be able to jail us all!" Some shouted slogans of support for Ukraine, which saw its Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia in March and has faced a pro-Russia insurgency in the east.

A security official in the Moscow mayor's office earlier warned that any attempt to hold a rally would be quickly blocked. Police, which have deployed in force around the central Manezh Square, rounded up some of the protesters and urged others to leave, but didn't immediately move in to break up the demonstration.

The rally has remained peaceful, despite some minor scuffles that erupted between Putin's supporters and the demonstrators. Russian law requires demonstrators to receive official clearance for their actions and can impose heavy fines and prison sentences for those who disobey.

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— The Associated Press