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

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Moscow Protests

REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

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

Official estimates say that there are around 2,500, while protesters say there are around 5,000, according to RFE/RL.

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

Army kettling protesters #russia http://t.co/20fsEThP6e

— Ilya Mouzykantskii (@ilyamuz) July 18, 2013

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

Suddenly Moscow the world's capital of road repairs MT @shustry: More loose paving stones conveniently stacked.. pic.twitter.com/1KOqAexwJz

— Russian Police Watch (@RusPoliceWatch) July 18, 2013

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

Trucks of soldiers ahead of #Navalny protest down the street from #Manezh square pic.twitter.com/k80hZLjrac

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) July 18, 2013

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

Люди скандируют "Свободу!", машины сигналят #манежка pic.twitter.com/gX2JRPlwWD

— Тот самый Терновский (@dternovskiy) July 18, 2013

Protesters have begun to block Tverskaya street, the main street heading towards the Kremlin:

Люди ломанулись на Тверскую, перекрыли! pic.twitter.com/fW3JYUqs1z

— Тот самый Терновский (@dternovskiy) July 18, 2013

This picture gives a good sense of the size of the crowds:

5 минут назад. #Манеж #дума #тверская #навальный pic.twitter.com/2tHwR6nMMM

— Mikhail Baskov (@MikhailBaskov) July 18, 2013

The protest is already pretty big, and it looks like it could be getting bigger. Russia Today reports that 10 people have been detained already — we should expect that number to rise.

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 means he has announced he will no longer run.

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.

Navalny's Twitter account is tweeting in support of the protests. "Thanks to all!," the tweet reads. "It is a crazy feeling when you understand that you don't stand alone!"

Спасибо вам всем! Это сумасшедшее чувство, когда понимаешь, что ты не одна!

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) July 18, 2013

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