MOSCOW – Two prominent Russian opposition leaders were released from detention Thursday after spending 15 days in a Moscow jail for disobeying police.
Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny and left-wing politician Sergei Udaltsov were arrested on May 9 as they protested President Vladimir Putin's inauguration.
An unprecedented wave of anti-Kremlin protests has swept Russia's major cities, and Navalny and Udalstov are some of the movement's key leaders.
In what is seen as an attempt to crackdown on dissent, Russia's lower house of parliament on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill increasing 200-fold fines for those taking part in unsanctioned protests. Opposition lawmakers have warned that the legislation would only fuel anger and destabilize Russia by robbing the public of a legal way to voice their grievances.
The Russian Duma is dominated by the Kremlin-backed United Russia party. United Russia's win in the December election marred by allegation of wide-spread vote-rigging was the initial trigger of street protests in Russia this winter.
About a hundred of Navalny supporters applauded and cheered him as he left the detention facility on the south-west outskirts of Moscow.
Navalny told the jubilant crowd that he would continue to fight against the regime even if that entails more jail time.
"They won't scare us with their iron beds and porridge," he said, referring to the conditions in jail. "I'm ready to enter this building two or twenty-two times if that's necessary."
Navalny said that the new legislation would backfire.
"The adoption of that bill would only increase the number of those attending sanctioned rallies and would make people taking part in illegal gathering resist even more fiercely."
Navalny, whose anti-corruption initiatives have thrived on generous public donations, voiced confidence that he and his supporters would have no difficulty raising the money however high new fines for protesters would be.