MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti) – The Kremlin's spokesman on Monday said President Vladimir Putin had played no role in opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s sudden release from jail last week.
Navalny, who is running for mayor of Moscow, was taken into custody Thursday upon being sentenced to five years in prison for masterminding a 2009 embezzlement scheme that allegedly cost the Russian city of Kirov half a million dollars.
However, the opposition leader was unexpectedly released a day after his sentencing upon a request by the federal Prosecutor General’s Office, raising eyebrows around the country and prompting speculation about who might have been behind the decision.
Russia’s Vedomosti business daily reported Monday, citing anonymous sources, that acting mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, had personally asked for Navalny to be let out of jail so that he could run for mayor.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied that report in an interview with the Business FM radio station, saying he had “no information on this subject.” He also said it was wrong to consider that Putin was involved.
“The court’s decision to put him [Navalny] in custody in the courtroom was protested according to a legal procedure, and it is absolutely illogical and wrong to involve the president in this respect,” Peskov said.
Sobyanin, known for his close ties with Putin, resigned as mayor last month and will run for re-election in September. He is expected to win.
Convicts are not allowed to run for office in Russia, but Navalny may still do so because he has not yet exhausted his appeals.