President Vladimir Putin’s foremost opponent defiantly challenged the Kremlin on Tuesday evening, hours after a court ruling that seemed cunningly designed to keep him in check.
A judge had sentenced the brother of Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and a scourge of Putin’s since 2011, to 3 1/2 years in prison while ordering Navalny himself to remain under house arrest.
Denouncing the move as a hostage-taking, Navalny defied the order and strode to the edges of a demonstration in central Moscow on Tuesday evening. Police quickly whisked him away, but he had shown that he would not buckle under an implied threat to his family.
He and his brother, Oleg, had been on trial on what they and their allies deemed trumped-up fraud charges. Supporters had expected that Alexei Navalny would be sentenced to the maximum of 10 years, but authorities appeared reluctant to make a martyr out of him, and he got off easily. His less political brother was not as fortunate.
Navalny’s supporters decried the legal system for incarcerating the relative of a political foe.