Moscow Prosecutors Ask Court To Release Jailed Actor Pending Appeal

The Moscow city prosecutor's office has asked a court to release actor Pavel Ustinov, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for violence against police during a protest rally last month he insists he did not participate in, until his sentence takes effect.

Ustinov's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Interfax news agency on September 19 that the Moscow City Court will look into the prosecutor's motion to release his client from custody until his sentence comes into force, which would not happen if the verdict is appealed and heard by the court.

Ustinov has until September 26 to file an appeal, which Kucherena has said will happen.

The lawyer's statement comes a day after some 100 actors staged a protest, each taking minute-long shifts holding a placard demanding the release of Ustinov. Russian law allows so-called single-picket protests without official permission.

A court in Moscow found Ustinov guilty of verbally insulting police and assaulting a National Guard officer during the August 3 rally and sentenced him on September 16.

Ustinov, who once worked as a National Guard officer, pleaded not guilty, saying he was standing nearby and was not participating in the rally at which activists challenged the refusal by officials to register opposition and independent candidates for Moscow city-council elections that took place on September 8.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on September 19 that "the situation [around Ustinov] is developing in accordance with the law" and that "the president [Vladimir Putin] cannot interfere in the situation."

Peskov said earlier that people raising questions regarding Ustinov's conviction "should wait until all necessary procedures related to possible appeal of the court's ruling are over."

Meanwhile, chief of Russia's National Guard Viktor Zolotov told Interfax on September 19 that Ustinov could have been handed a 1-year suspended prison term, adding that his 3 1/2 prison sentence could be transferred to blogger Vladislav Sinitsa.

Sinitsa was sentenced to 5 years in prison on September 3 after a court found him guilty of inciting hatred by advocating via Twitter retaliation against the children of National Guard officers who violently dispersed a rally in Moscow in late August.

Ustinov's imprisonment has sparked an outcry among the entertainment community, as well as from teachers, priests, and even some members of the Moscow city council.

The August 3 rally was part of a wave of demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of Russians onto the streets of Moscow.

Police violently dispersed several of the protests and more than 2,000 people were detained, drawing international condemnation.

A number of those detained have received jail sentences.

With reporting by Interfax