Russian protest leaders punished, fear crackdown

MOSCOW - Opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov started a hunger strike on Thursday after being sentenced to 10 days in jail for disobeying the police following a rally against Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Another Moscow court handed fellow protest leader Alexei Navalny a 1,000-rouble ($34) fine for refusing to leave after attending a separate anti-Putin rally on March 5, the day after Putin won a presidential election.
In a separate case, businessman Alexei Kozlov, the husband of one of the protest organizers, received a five-year jail sentence on fraud charges. He had already served three years in jail, so will serve two more years.
"Damn you, court," Kozlov's wife, Olga Romanova, said as the verdict was read out. Dozens of Kozlov's supporters, who say the charges are a punishment for political activities, shouted: "Shame on you!"
Putin's critics fear he will crack down on his opponents following his election triumph and smother protests sparked by anger at allegations of fraud in the presidential election and in a parliamentary poll won by his party on December 4.
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