Dissident aims to be Moscow mayor
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny declared he would run in elections to become mayor of Moscow as he arrived back in the capital yesterday, two days after he was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement.
"We are going to run in this election and we will win," he told a waiting crowd of several hundred supporters.
In a strange and unexpected twist, Mr Navalny was released on bail by a provincial court in Kirov, 500 miles east of Moscow, on Friday pending an appeal. Less than 24 hours earlier he had been arrested in court in the same city and taken to a detention centre.
The guilty verdict was widely seen as political retribution for the campaigner's criticism of President Vladimir Putin, and it drew fire both at home and abroad. His detention appeared to show that the Kremlin was taking no risks and excluding him from the race for the September 8 poll for the powerful Moscow mayoralty.
But as thousands gathered in the capital to protest against the verdict on Thursday evening, a regional prosecutor issued a request for him to be released while his appeal was considered.
Analysts now say they think Mr Navalny, 37, was temporarily freed in order to give some legitimacy to the election, which the current mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, who was appointed by Mr Putin, is expected to win handsomely.
Fewer than 10 per cent of Muscovites would vote for Mr Navalny, according to recent polls, and it remains unclear whether he can galvanise greater support in the time that remains.
Mr Sobyanin has huge resources and won genuine popularity for decreasing traffic congestion and improving parks.
Navalny is almost certain eventually to return to prison to serve his five-year sentence.
© Sunday Telegraph