MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) – A Moscow court upheld on Wednesday a 4 1/2-year jail sentence handed down to a man found guilty of mass disorder during a protest on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term last May, the Rapsi legal news agency reported.
Fitness club manager Maxim Luzyanin, 36, was jailed in November after pleading guilty to using violence against police at the protest, which saw hundreds of arrests and sparked days of anti-Putin protests in Moscow.
Luzyanin, who has a small child, did not attend the hearing.
Over 20 other people are currently awaiting trial or under investigation on charges relating to violence at the rally. Luzyanin is the only person to have pleaded guilty.
Investigators have alleged that the clashes at the May 6 rally were orchestrated by key anti-Putin protest figures, including Sergei Udaltsov, a leftist leader.
The court’s ruling comes just days after a fellow suspect in the case, Alexander Dolmatov of the Other Russia political movement, killed himself in the Netherlands, where he was seeking political asylum. Dolmatov, 35, is believed to have committed suicide after being told he would be deported to Russia.
Alexei Navalny, a prominent opposition leader also facing jail time on separate charges, said in November that Luzyanin’s sentence highlighted what he called the government’s increasingly harsh tactics against protesters.
Since his return to the Kremlin in May, Putin has approved a slew of legislation that critics say is designed to stifle dissent, including a law that vastly increases fines for illegal protests and another that forces NGOs funded from abroad and engaged in political activity to label themselves “foreign agents.”
Aside from Navalny and the suspects in the May 6 protest case, a number of other opposition figures have also experienced legal problems in recent months. But Putin denies a crackdown is underway, saying everyone “must comply with Russian law.”