Opposition activist Navalny detained at Moscow rally, defying house arrest

Opposition activist Aleksey Navalny, who was given a 3 1/2-year suspended sentence in an embezzlement case Tuesday, has been detained at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow after defying house arrest. Police said 1,500 people attended, and 100 were detained.

Navalny was detained as he was on his way to a rally supporting him at Manezhnaya Square, and was sent home by police.

Police officers have detained Aleksey Navalny, who defied house arrest,” the police said in a statement. “Accompanied by the Federal Penitentiary Service, he will be taken to the place of his residence.”

Earlier, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said it had recorded a violation of Navalny’s house arrest and notified the court, a spokesman for the service said.

"I was detained," Navalny said on his Twitter account. "But they won't be able to detain everyone".

The rally, which was not sanctioned by Moscow authorities, is taking place near the Kremlin walls. Security was beefed up at the square ahead of the demonstration, which was initially scheduled for January 15, but was moved forward in response to the court’s Tuesday announcement in the Navalny brothers’ case.

According to security officials' estimates, some 1,500 protesters attended the rally, while about 100 were detained for disorderly conduct.

Smaller rallies in support of Navalny took place in other Russian cities including Saint Petersburg, Samara and Yekaterinburg.

READ MORE: Opposition figure Navalny guilty of embezzlement, gets 3.5yrs suspended sentence

On Tuesday morning, a Moscow district court announced the sentence to Aleksey Navalny and his brother Oleg in a case of embezzlement involving Yves Rocher stores in Russia. The verdict was initially scheduled for January 15, but was brought forward to December 30.

Aleksey Navalny received a suspended 3 1/2 year sentence, after being accused of embezzling over $500,000 from the cosmetics company, while his brother was also found guilty and received a sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison.

In response to Navalny’s verdict, the EU said that the convictions seemed to be “politically motivated,” while the US said that it was a “disturbing development.”

The overall amount of money paid by Yves Rocher to the Navalny brothers exceeded 55 million rubles (over $1.6 million at the time) and the pocketed margin was over 20 million rubles ($600,000), according to the company’s claim. Additionally, the brothers were accused of laundering the money with the help of a different family enterprise.

Aleksey Navalny was charged with fraud and money laundering of 30 million rubles ($518,000) and has been under house arrest since February.

Navalny has repeatedly said the claims were false and instigated by the authorities as “revenge” for his anti-corruption activism. Navalny has a popular anti-corruption blog in which he has accused many government officials of money laundering.

The latest case is not Navalny’s first trial. In 2013 he received a five-year suspended sentence for taking part in a graft scheme involving a state-owned timber company in central Russia’s Kirov Region.