Putin Critic Is Freed On Bail Following Protests

A day after he was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was released Friday.

Evgeny Feldman / AP

Alexei Navalny hugged his wife upon his release on Friday.

Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was set free Friday. The move was seen as an effort to soothe public outrage sparked by his conviction the day before on charges of embezzlement.

Navalny’s supporters have called the charges and the five-year jail sentence he received on Thursday a blatantly political attempt to silence the foe of President Vladimir Putin. Navalny, a blogger who became a hero to the country’s growing urban middle class, has denied all charges and plans to appeal the verdict.

Prosecutors had requested that the Moscow mayoral candidate be let go pending appeal, arguing that the arrest would keep Navalny from from taking part in the Moscow mayoral election. Elections are in September. His release comes with the condition that he not leave Moscow, according to reports.

The United States and European Union voiced concern over Navalny’s conviction on Thursday, saying it raised questions about the rule of law and Russia’s treatment of Putin’s opponents. The White House called it part of a “disturbing trend aimed at suppressing dissent.”

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