Two Russian anti-Putin activists jailed over clashes

Sergei Udaltsov in court in Moscow (24 Jul 14) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Sergei Udaltsov heads the banned Left Front opposition movement

A Moscow court has sentenced two protest leaders to four-and-a-half years in jail for inciting "mass riots" against President Vladimir Putin.

Sergei Udaltsov and Leonid Razvozzhayev were found guilty of co-ordinating protests which turned violent on the eve of Mr Putin's inauguration for a third presidential term in May 2012.

Prosecutors had sought eight years.

The pair deny the charges and say Russian police provoked the clashes at Moscow's Bolotnaya Square.

Razvozzhayev was also ordered to pay a 150,000-rouble fine (£2,520; $4,286).

Lawyers for both activists - who denied the charges - said they would appeal against the sentences, including to the European Court of Human Rights.

Udaltsov, a radical leftist, also announced he would go on a hunger strike. He and his supporters shouted "Freedom!" in court on Thursday.

Controversial TV footage

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Leonid Razvozzhayev alleges that Russian agents kidnapped him in Ukraine

"Udaltsov, Razvozzhayev... agreed between themselves repeatedly on the organisation of mass disorder," the judge said.

Before his arrest in October 2012 Razvozzhayev was an aide to opposition MP Ilya Ponomarev.

Razvozzhayev said he was abducted in Ukraine, smuggled into Russia and forced into signing a confession, which he later disavowed.

The case against them was based on a documentary broadcast by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV, which purported to show them discussing efforts to topple the Russian government with an official from neighbouring Georgia - Givi Targamadze - and seeking financial support.

Udaltsov said the footage was a sham and the documentary "dirt and lies".

Anti-government protests erupted in December 2011 amid allegations that the parliamentary elections that month were rigged.

In the Bolotnaya Square investigation seven other protesters have been jailed and 11 acquitted. Eight others are still held on remand or under investigation. An arrest warrant has been issued in Russia for Givi Targamadze.

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