- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2013

Russia’s leading opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was freed from jail on Friday, after serving only 24 hours of a five-year embezzlement sentence.

The surprise release came at the request of prosecutors, who said they didn’t want to compromise Mr. Navalny’s ability to participate in this fall’s Moscow mayoral race, CBS reported. The court attached one condition on his release — that he not travel outside Moscow.

The release also came at the pressure of roughly 3,000 protesters who had gathered near the Russian heart of power, near the Kremlin, demanding into the early morning hours that Mr. Navalny be released. Police detained 209, CBS reported. But all have since been released, authorities said.

Mr. Navalny is a popular man of the people — and one of President Vladimir Putin’s loudest critics. He rose to power during Mr. Putin’s disputed third presidential win in March 2012.