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Navalny is escorted to prison by police. Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to about 2.5 years in prison, officially for violating parole while he recovered in Germany from an assassination attempt.

Driving the news: A 3.5-year suspended sentence dating from 2014 — stemming from charges that were widely seen as politically motivated — was turned into a prison term, minus the 10 months Navalny previously spent under house arrest. His arrest last month upon his return to Russia sparked widespread protests over the past two weekends.

  • Navalny addressed the court before his sentence was announced on Tuesday, describing the charges against him as completely fabricated and motivated by "the fear of the man in the bunker" — Vladimir Putin.
  • Navalny made his name as a video blogger and anti-corruption activist, ultimately becoming perhaps the biggest thorn in Putin's side.
  • Even after Navalny's arrest, his organization released a viral video two weeks ago accusing Putin of controlling a "billion dollar palace."

The latest: Navalny made a heart-shaped hand gesture toward his wife Yulia as his sentence was read out.

  • His organization has called for immediate protests near the Kremlin in Moscow.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Go deeper

Feb 1, 2021 - World

Secretary of State Tony Blinken “deeply disturbed" by crackdown on Russian protesters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department, Washington, DC, on January 27, 2021. Photo: Carlos Barria/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the weekend protests and arrests in Russia are about "the frustration that the Russian people have with corruption, with autocracy," in an interview that aired Monday on NBC.

What he's saying: “We are deeply disturbed by this violent crackdown against people exercising their rights to protest peacefully against their government, rights that are guaranteed to them in the Russian constitution."

Updated Feb 1, 2021 - World

In photos: Over 5,000 arrested during Navalny protests in Russia

Police detain protesters during an unauthorized protest rally against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow Sunday. Yulia Navalny, the activist's wife, was among over 1,500 people detained in the city, per AP. She was released after a few hours. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Over 5,000 demonstrators were detained in major Russian cities Sunday, as authorities cracked down on people who defied orders and protested against the detention of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, monitoring groups said.

Why it matters: Navalny's detention has united Russians from a variety of backgrounds, including those who are against his politics, to protest the authoritarian leadership of President Vladimir Putin, per the New York Times.

  • Russian prosecutors have demanded that social media platforms censor calls to join protests, AP notes.
56 mins ago - World

Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.