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Russian opposition: jailings are Putin 'warning'

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Russian opposition: jailings are Putin 'warning'
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The Russian opposition says a series of convictions of leading opponents of Vladimir Putin is a warning signal.

Alexei Kozlov, whose wife belongs to a group that helped organise a wave of rallies against Putin in recent months, was found guilty of fraud in a business deal pre-dating the protests, and sentenced to five years in prison.

Supporters in court shouted ‘shame’ as Kozlov was led away. He will serve a maximum of two years having already spent three behind bars over charges of stealing shares.

Last year Kozlov was freed when the case was sent for retrial.

“We need a reform of the courts, otherwise there will be nothing, no revision of any results, neither the election results nor anything else. Nothing,” said his wife Olga Romanova, who was in court to hear the sentence.

Earlier, another court jailed far-left leader Sergei Udaltsov for 10 days for disobeying police. He had addressed a small crowd in Moscow after a peaceful rally last weekend.

As a sign of protest he said he was declaring a hunger strike.

Udaltsov has become one of the most outspoken figures behind the demonstrations that at times have brought up to 100,000 people onto the streets against Vladimir Putin’s ultimately successful bid to retake the presidency.

Another prominent opponent, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny was fined the equivalent of 26 euros for refusing to go straight home after last weekend’s rally.

The opposition is trying to regroup after Putin’s election for a third term.