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Putin critic Navalny cuts ankle tag in protest at house arrest

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. AFP

Prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has posted a picture of his severed monitoring tag on his blog, saying he will no longer comply with the terms of his house arrest.

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Navalny, who led mass protests against President Vladimir Putin three years ago, was handed a suspended sentence on Dec. 30 after a court found him guilty of embezzling money. 

The court sentenced his brother to jail on similar charges. Navalny, who was placed under house arrest almost a year ago for the duration of the investigation, says the legal case was politically motivated by his opposition to Putin.

In his blog, the Kremlin critic said he was perhaps the only person in Russian legal history to be kept under house arrest after being sentenced.

He said he should have been released after sentencing in late December, but instead was being held pending the publication of the verdict on Jan. 15.

"I refuse to comply with the requirements of my illegal detention under house arrest. The bracelet with some effort has been cut off with kitchen scissors," Navalny wrote on his blog, alongside a picture of the bracelet, or tag, that monitors his movements.

He said he had no plans to travel far.

When Navalny was handed his suspended sentence, his brother was jailed for three and a half years. They had faced charges of stealing 30 million roubles, around $500,000 at the current exchange rate, from two firms including an affiliate of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012.

Opposition figures say jailing Navalny risked new protests so he was being punished through his brother instead. The Kremlin denies influencing court decisions.

After the sentencing, Navalny broke house arrest to join a rally of hundreds of his supporters outside the Kremlin but was swiftly detained and driven home by police.

Three years ago, Navalny led the mass demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of people on to the streets of Moscow and several other big Russian cities to protest against corruption and alleged election fraud.

In September 2013 he came second in Moscow's mayoral elections, with 27% of the vote, narrowly missing out on a second-round runoff.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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