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Kremlin critic Aleksey Navalny thanks supporters for rallying in his defence

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Kremlin critic Aleksey Navalny thanks supporters for rallying in his defence

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Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, who has been released on bail, has thanked supporters who protested against his five-year prison sentence for embezzlement.

A day after his conviction, Navalny has been let out of custody pending an appeal. His release follows a series of demonstrations in Russian cities.

Navalny told reporters: “I’m grateful to all those who supported us, to those who came to Moscow’s Manezh Square and other squares last night.”

“We perfectly understand that what has now happened is a unique thing in the Russian judicial system,” the Kremlin critic added.

Navalny has denied the charges and said he believes his trial was politically motivated. An anti-corruption campaigner, he spearheaded mass protests against Vladimir Putin in 2011.

The opposition leader’s release pending an appeal is being seen as a sign that the Kremlin may have bowed to public pressure. Thousands of people protested in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities on Thursday after his sentence was handed down.