MOSCOW: Russian prosecutors on Monday backed a request to imprison opposition leader Alexei Navalny for several years on old charges, after police detained a record number of anti-Kremlin protesters across the country.
On Sunday, demonstrators defied government warnings and rallied from the Pacific port of Vladivostok to the northwestern city of Pskov in a second weekend of mass protest over the arrest of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent.
The protests, which saw authorities enforce an unprecedented lockdown of the centre of Moscow, came ahead of a high-profile court hearing that could see Navalny imprisoned for several years.
Navalny’s detention and the crackdown on protesters has sparked an outcry in the West.
The 44-year-old is facing charges of violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement and could be jailed for two-and-a-half years.
The General Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Monday that it backed a request by the prison service to change the suspended sentence to jail time.
“This motion is considered lawful and justified,” the statement said.
Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport in mid-January after flying back to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from an August poisoning.
He blames the attack with the Novichok nerve agent on Putin and the FSB security agency.
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