Russia convicts protest leader Udaltsov of fomenting 'mass riots'
A Russian court on Thursday convicted an opposition leader and his colleague of organising "mass riots" ahead of Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president in 2012.
Judge Alexander Zamashnyuk said the guilt of protest leader Sergei Udaltsov and his ally Leonid Razvozzhayev in preparing unrest in Moscow and in other regions of Russia has been "totally proven", an AFP correspondent in the courtroom reported.
Prosecutors have requested Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev be sentenced to eight years in a penal colony for organising the rally on May 6, 2012, which the government has described as a "riot", as well as plotting further unrest across Russia.
As the entire verdict is read out in court, it may be several hours before the judge announces the sentence.
Supporters of the two men gathered near the courthouse with signs protesting the trial and chanted protest slogans.
Udaltsov, 37, was one of the more radical opposition leaders during the wave of mass rallies against Vladimir Putin which swept Moscow in 2011-2012.
He was put under house arrest in February 2013 after being charged with fomenting mass disorder and accused of attempting to overthrow the government.
His co-defendant Leonid Razvozzhayev, 41, was an aide to a Russian opposition lawmaker. He was put under pre-trial arrest in October 2012, accusing Russia's security services of abducting him from Ukraine where he was applying for asylum, and smuggling him across the border.
The two men were charged in the wake of a mass rally in Moscow on May 6, 2012, when tens of thousands of people marched in protest against Putin's inauguration to a historic third presidential term, only to clash with police cordons around the central Bolotnaya square.
Human rights organisations have protested the charges as disproportionate and said that police provoked the clashes by blocking the path of the crowd.
The so-called Bolotnaya probe has already seen seven protesters sentenced to prison terms of up to four years for participating in the unrest.
The probe against Udaltsov is based on a film broadcast on a Russian TV channel which alleged that he planned an uprising funded by a Georgian lawmaker.
Udaltsov proclaimed his innocence again in an interview published Thursday in the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets, saying he did not know the Georgian lawmaker and that the film had been fabricated.
Udaltsov's lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky remarked to AFP during the Wednesday hearing that the decision read by judge Alexander Zamashnyuk seemed to be a carbon copy of the prosecutor's indictment.
With tensions running high in and around the courtroom, the judge ordered some of the people to leave the hearing following emotional outbursts of protest.
Udaltsov headed the leftist opposition group Left Front before it was banned shortly after his arrest.
© 2014 AFP