Blogger Alexei Navalny released: "The country has changed"
by Nina Achmatova
Symbol of the anti-fraud protests released, who now invites people to vote against Putin for president in March and warns: the demonstrations will continue. Appointment for December 24.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Bloggers and symbol of anti-government protests in Russia, Alexey Navalny was released late at night in Moscow. For fear that his release would transform itself into another protest rally again after post-election demonstrations, the authorities have chosen a time that saw only a hundred journalists and supporters gathered outside the prison. Navalny was welcomed therefore mostly by flashing cameras and white flowers, the colour that has become the symbol of the Russian opposition movement.

Navalny was arrested Dec. 5 in the first of the great protests contesting the legislative election won by Putin’s United Russia. The most famous lawyer and blogger in Russia had been sentenced to 15 days detention for "resisting the police."

On his release, Navalny wasted no time and immediately re-launched his campaign against United Russia, renamed with the slogan he coined the "party of thieves and swindlers." Having denied the rumours that he would like to be Putin's presidential challenger in March - elections which he deemed "illegal" - Navalny reiterated his strategy to undermine the decades old power of Putin. "In the elections for the Duma I call for people to vote against the party of 'thieves and swindlers'- he said - now I ask you to vote against the first of the impostors and thieves, my appeal is to vote for any other candidate."

On this point the opposition has been divided from the beginning, between those who agree with the Navalny and others who call for a complete boycott of the poll.

As for the protests, said Navalny was convinced that they will go ahead: "I was arrested two weeks ago, and on release I find myself in another country." His release comes just three days from the next big anti-fraud protest scheduled for December 24 in Moscow. The hope of the authorities is that with the arrival of the holidays for the New Year (bigger that Christmas celebrations in Russia) popular discontent will diminish and with it also the opposition movement.

In addition to Navalny, Ilya Yashin was also released. Yashin is leader of the opposition movement 'Solidarnost', one of the main organized of the protests, which for the first time in 15 years have really put Putin’s authority into question.