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Putin says protesters in unauthorised rallies ‘must be punished’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin/ AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Aleksey Nikolskyi

Russsian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday insisted that participants in unauthorised protests must be punished after anti-corruption rallies across the country at the weekend ended in mass arrests.

“During political activities everyone must act within the framework of the law,” Putin said Thursday in comments broadcast from an Arctic forum held in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk.

“Those who go outside the law must be punished in accordance with Russian legislation.”

More than 1,000 people were arrested in Moscow on Sunday during an anti-corruption protest, one of the largest unauthorised rallies to take place during Putin’s 17 years in power as president or prime minister.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny — who has announced plans to run for president next year — called for Russians to take to the streets after he published a report accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a murky network of non-profit organisations.

Navalny was fined for having organised an unauthorised rally and sentenced to 15 days in prison for his alleged insubordination to police.

A Moscow court on Thursday rejected Navalny’s appeal and ordered him to serve his sentence in full. Navalny was brought into court handcuffed to a policeman in an unusually harsh procedure.

Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova said her client’s detention was “politically motivated” and insisted that video footage from his arrest debunked the testimony of policemen.

Although he did not name Navalny, Putin on Thursday accused “someone, some political forces” of trying to advance “selfish interests” and engaging in “self-promotion in the political arena ahead of some political events including electoral campaigns within the country.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Russians’ “civic stance” would be respected as long as it was expressed legally, branding Sunday’s peaceful protests “a provocation and a lie.”

Demonstrations took place not only in Moscow and the second-largest city Saint Petersburg, but also in a number of provincial cities where protests are rarely seen. or-gtf/am/boc

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