Russia opens severe criminal investigation over pro-democracy rally

Federal investigators in Russia have opened an investigation over mass unrest that could end in up to 15-year prison sentences for calling a protest for fair elections, where 1 373 protesters were arrested over the weekend.

French news agency AFP reports that Russian federal investigators said their probe would target not just the organisers of the weekend rally but also participants. The investigation will also look into violence against police and other officials, they revealed in a statement.

The opposition have however already called for a new unsanctioned protest on Saturday, and more than 13,000 people have indicated an interest on Facebook.
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a top Putin supporter, blamed organisers in a TV interview of preparing a «fresh provocation» and defended the use of batons by police, who he said were «obliged to use force» during the weekend demonstration.

Leading opposition figures have been sentenced to short jail terms after the weekend protest.
For example, Opposition politician Dmitry Gudkov was on Tuesday, July 30, sentenced to a month over an earlier unauthorised protest, while would-be candidate Ilya Yashin was jailed for 20 days in two separate sentencings.

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