A Russian court has ordered a leading opposition figure placed under house arrest. It ruled that Alexei Navalny had violated the terms of a travel ban imposed upon him in 2012.
The decision handed down by the Moscow court followed a request from Russia's Investigative Committee, which called for him to be placed under house arrest for committing a public order offence and for breaching a ban on his travelling outside of Moscow.
The court order also banned Navalny from using the internet or communicating with the media. The house-arrest order is to run initially until April 28 but can be extended.
Speaking during his hearing, Navalny rejected the court's decision, saying it was just the latest attempt by the Moscow authorities to clamp down on dissent.
"I believe the new measures are based on trumped up grounds in order to restrict my political activities," the 37-year-old Navalny said.
Last July, Navalny was convicted of fraud and sentenced to five years in prison, however the sentence was suspended a day later in the face of mass street protests in Moscow. In a separate case, Navalny, along with his brother Oleg, stands accused of stealing and laundering a total of 51 million rubles ($1.4 million euros) from cosmetics company Yves Rocher and a Russian firm. Navalny and his supporters also claim that these allegations are politically motivated.
Navalny is currently serving a week-long administrative detention sentence for disobeying police orders at a demonstration on Monday against the imprisonment of a group of activists opposed to President Vladimir Putin.
He is to be released on Monday, when his house arrest sentence is to come into force.
Navalny who rose to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger, took nearly a third of the votes when he ran for mayor of Moscow last September. His current suspended sentence will prevent him from being eligible to run in the next presidential election in 2018.
pfd/hc (APF, Reuters, AP)