Putin Foe Defies House Arrest, Goes to Buy Milk

Russian anti-corruption crusader Navalny uses opportunity to taunt Kremlin over rising prices and economic recession; Navalny, top foe of Russian leader, convicted of fraud, given suspended sentence.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.Credit: Reuters

Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny defied his house arrest on Tuesday by walking to his local store to buy milk, and said he was quickly intercepted by three men — presumably police — who escorted him home.

A woman screams during an unauthorized rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Moscow on December 30, 2014.Credit: AFP

Navalny, the leading foe of President Vladimir Putin, was convicted a week ago of fraud and given a suspended sentence of 3½ years. He was kept under house arrest pending appeal.

Claiming that it was illegal to keep him under house arrest after conviction, Navalny announced on Monday that he had cut off his monitoring bracelet with a kitchen knife.

On Tuesday, he wrote on his website that he had been stopped after buying milk, and posted photos taken by his wife showing him walking back to the apartment, milk carton in hand, accompanied by the three men.

The Kremlin appears reluctant to jail Navalny, so as not to make him a martyr, but also seems determined to keep him on a tight leash.

A lawyer and popular blogger, Navalny rose to prominence with his investigations of official corruption and played a leading role in organizing anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in 2011 and 2012 that drew hundreds of thousands.

Navalny first violated the terms of his house arrest last week to attend a protest triggered by his conviction. As he approached the rally, he was picked up by police, who drove him home and blocked him from leaving his apartment.

On Tuesday, he used his shopping trip to taunt the Kremlin over soaring inflation caused by the collapse of the ruble as the Russian economy heads into recession.

"What a price for milk!" he wrote. The same liter of milk that he bought for 45 rubles before his house arrest began in February now costs 75 rubles, Navalny said.

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