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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chants of ‘Russia Without Putin’ Ring Out as an Activist Blogger Goes Down Tweeting

Video of protesters in Moscow on Thursday, blocked by riot police officers from the square where they had planned to rally.

Chants of “Russia Without Putin!” could be heard in video streamed live from the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg on Thursday, where supporters of the jailed opposition activist Aleksei Navalny, hemmed in by riot police officers, gathered after the anti-corruption blogger was sentenced to five years in prison.

Video of protesters on Malaya Sadovaya Street in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

Mr. Navalny, who was still posting evidence of official corruption on his popular blog on the eve of the verdict, told my colleague Ellen Barry in April that he fully expected to be convicted on charges of corruption filed against him by state prosecutors last year, after he emerged as a leader of street protests against President Vladimir Putin. He also expressed confidence, however, that the opposition movement would eventually succeed.

Although he has warned that “romantic ideas” about the power of the Internet to affect change are often “exaggerated,” Mr. Navalny has used the Web to chip away at the positive image of Mr. Putin disseminated on state-controlled television. Even as his sentence was read out on Thursday in the city of Kirov, Mr. Navalny continued to send a stream of wry commentary, self-portraits and calls for fresh anti-Putin protests to hundreds of thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers from his phone.

As Glenn Kates explained in a post for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Mr. Navalny even found time to follow the discussion of his case on Twitter. He responded to another blogger who had captioned a frame-grab of Mr. Navalny tweeting from court, “To put hipsters on trial is only to ruin the trial,” by writing simply, “АХАХАХА,” which is Russian for “AHAHAHA.”

After he snapped an Instagram photograph of the judge in his case, Sergei Blinov, reading the verdict out, Mr. Navalny noted with approval that someone then Photoshopped the image to make it look like the official was taking part in a satanic ritual.

At the end of the trial, Mr. Navalny signed off: “Okay. Don’t miss me. And most importantly â€" do not be lazy.” Referring to the Russian government, he added, “The toad will not remove itself from the oil pipeline.”

Video of the complete court session posted online by a state news agency showed Mr. Navalny typing on his phone for a final time less than three minutes before he was handcuffed and led away.

Video of Aleksei Navalny’s trial on Thursday in the Russian city of Kirov.

As The Lede reported earlier this week, Mr. Navalny spent much of his time in the run-up to the verdict launching a campaign to get himself elected mayor of Moscow. A YouTube clip of the activist and his supporters marching to an election office to make his candidacy official last week offers a sense of the infectious optimism and enthusiasm that might have unsettled his enemies in the Kremlin.

Video of Aleksei Navalny and his supporters marching to an election office in Moscow last week.

Journalists in the Russian capital on Thursday, including Ilya Mouzykantskii, a contributor to The Lede, uploaded images of a tense standoff there between protesters and the police on Tverskaya Street, where the crowds were eventually pushed back onto sidewalks.

As the Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov reported on Twitter and his live blog, protesters remained on the street late Thursday.

Hours later, as the protests continued, a new update appeared on Mr. Navalny’s Twitter feed, reading: “Thanks to all! It is a crazy feeling when you understand that you don’t stand alone!”