Russian Activist's Jailing 'Intended To Isolate Him' On Election Day

A Russian opposition activist who has been ordered jailed for 25 days says the sentence is intended to keep him out of action during the March 18 presidential election.

A court in St. Petersburg handed down the ruling against Andrei Pivovarov, the local leader of the Open Russia NGO, on February 27.

The court said that Pivovarov violated legislation on public assembly when he took part in a nationwide protest organized by opposition politician Aleksei Navalny on January 28.

Navalny, who was barred from the ballot because of a criminal conviction he contends was engineered by the Kremlin, is urging Russians to boycott an election he has denounced as the undemocratic "reappointment" of President Vladimir Putin.

"It looks like [the authorities] are not quite sure of the results of even this so-called election, and so they are trying to isolate me," Pivovarov wrote on Facebook.

"My arrest just shows how weak and scared they are," he wrote.

A senior ally of Navalny, Leonid Volkov, was ordered jailed for 30 days on February 22, and Navalny has voiced concern that he himself may also be in jail on election day.

He and his backers say they suspect the authorities want to thwart their plans to hold more protests and monitor the vote for evidence of fraud.

Authorities have accused Navalny of violating public-assembly legislation by organizing the February 28 protests, and a Moscow court is scheduled to hear his case on March 5. He could be jailed for 30 days.

Eight candidates will be on the ballot in the presidential vote, which appears certain to hand Putin -- who has been president or prime minister since 1999 -- a new six-year term in the Kremlin.

Putin's popularity, his control over the levers of power, and what critics say have been years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize opponents virtually ensure his victory.