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Kremlin critic Navalny spared prison time

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been spared a prison term, after a Moscow court ruled against turning his suspended sentence into jail time.

It was a tense hearing in the courtroom on Wednesday, with Navalny arriving with a bag packed with his belongings, ready to be taken to a penal colony.

Navalny, who led mass street protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2011 and 2012, has denied any wrongdoing in the 2013 case that saw him convicted for stealing from a state firm. He insists that the case is part of a Kremlin campaign to stifle dissent.

Navalny received a suspended sentence after a very controversial trial over his alleged embezzlement from a timber firm in the northern Kirov region.

Since then, the 38-year-old Navalny, who shot to prominence with his online anti-corruption campaigns and rousing rhetoric at protests, has received a second fraud conviction. He faces a string of probes against him and his associates.

Navalny's supporters charge that the decisions on his cases originate in the Kremlin rather than in court.

In 2013, Navalny took part in the Moscow mayoral election, running on the ticket of the party of Boris Nemtsov, the former deputy prime minister who was assassinated in February.

av/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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