A court in Moscow on Tuesday sentenced Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny to over two-and-a-half years in prison, saying that he violated the terms of his probation while recovering in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning, reported AP. The verdict ignited protests in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Navalny was arrested on January 17 as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent, which he alleges was done by the government of President Vladimir Putin. The Opposition leader had given a call to his supporters to protest after he was immediately taken into custody from an airport in Moscow.

The court’s decision to convert a 2014 suspended sentence into real prison time will see Navalny serve a long jail term for the first time, reported AFP. His lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, said this meant Navalny would serve around two years and eight months in jail. After the ruling was announced on Tuesday around 8 pm, protestors rushed to central Moscow and gathered on St Petersburg’s main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt.

Helmeted riot police reportedly grabbed protestors and put them in police vehicles. Latvia-based news website Meduza showed videos of police roughly pulling a passenger and driver outside a taxi. The protests reportedly lasted till around 1 am.

Around 1,400 people were detained in Russia during Tuesday’s protests in support of Navalny, rights monitors say, according to BBC. In Moscow, riot police were reportedly seen beating protestors with batons.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United States and the European Union denounced the judgement but Moscow accused the West of interfering in its affairs.

“We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, according to AP.

On January 23, the Russian police detained more than 3,000 people, and used force to break up rallies as as tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets to demand the release of the Kremlin critic. The activist’s wife Yulia Navalnaya was briefly detained at a rally before being released.

The 44-year-old was accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement in a case. The activist maintained that the charges against him are trumped-up.

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Russia: Over 3,000 detained at protests demanding Alexei Navalny’s release