Alexei Navalny, would-be Russian candidate and Putin critic, jailed again
Sentence prevents Navalny from attending major rally this coming weekend
A Moscow court on Monday sent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to jail for 20 days for calling for an unsanctioned protest, which would keep him away from a major rally this weekend.
Police detained Navalny on Friday, preventing him from travelling to a rally in a major Russian city that had given its official permission to hold the gathering. Charges brought against the Kremlin's top rival relate to the upcoming rally in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city and President Vladimir Putin's hometown, which has not been sanctioned.
After he announced his presidential bid last year, Navalny, arguably Russia's most popular opposition politician, inspired a grassroots campaign in Russian regions to support his nomination.
Navalny tweeted shortly after the ruling Monday evening: "20 days in jail. Old man Putin got so scared of our rallies in the regions and decided to make himself a little present for himself for his birthday,"
The rally in St. Petersburg was scheduled for Saturday, which is also Putin's birthday.
Navalny's campaign late Monday called for rallies to protest his arrest in other Russian cities this Saturday.
A Russian law on public gatherings, which was hastily adopted following massive anti-government rallies in 2011-2012, carries 30 days in jail for repeated violations.
The Kremlin has dismissed Navalny, who has faced repeated jailings and criminal cases, as an urbanite out of touch with people living in Russia's 11 time zones from which Putin draws his support from.
The country's top election body has ruled Navalny is ineligible to run after an earlier prison sentence.
Yet that began to change earlier this year when Navalny, a 41-year-old lawyer, opened campaign offices in 80 cities and towns.
Most of those places had not seen a diverse political life for decades, and Navalny attracted thousands of supporters.