Politics

State Department Condemns Russian Court's Sentencing Of Alexei Navalny

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Russian anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks as he attends the verdict announcement of his fraud trial at a court in Moscow on December 30, 2014. Russia's top opposition leader Alexei Navalny on December 30 called for mass protests to 'destroy' President Vladimir Putin's regime after a court handed him a suspended sentence but jailed his brother in a controversial fraud case. In a lightning hearing that was abruptly brought forward by two weeks, a judge found both Navalny and his brother Oleg guilty of embezzlement and sentenced the siblings to three and a half years in what is widely seen as a politically motivated case. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks as he attends the verdict announcement of his fraud trial at a court in Moscow on December 30, 2014. Russia's top opposition leader Alexei Navalny on December 30 called for mass protests to 'destroy' President Vladimir Putin's regime after a court handed him a suspended sentence but jailed his brother in a controversial fraud case. In a lightning hearing that was abruptly brought forward by two weeks, a judge found both Navalny and his brother Oleg guilty of embezzlement and sentenced the siblings to three and a half years in what is widely seen as a politically motivated case. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department strongly condemned a suspended sentence handed to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the jailing of his brother, Oleg, by a Russian court on Tuesday, calling it a "disturbing development."

The Navalny brothers were accused of stealing 30 million roubles, around $500,000 at the current exchange rate, from two firms including an affiliate of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher between 2008 and 2012.

Their case has been seen as part of a campaign by Moscow to stifle dissent.

"The decision is a disturbing development in our view," State Department spokeswoman Jeff Rathke told a briefing. "It appears to be designed to further punish and deter political activism."

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chris Reese)

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