Moscow: A Russian court on Tuesday refused to take legal action after top opposition leader Alexei Navalny defiantly cut short his house arrest by snipping off his security bracelet.
The prominent Kremlin critic was convicted of fraud in a controversial trial late last month and handed a 3 1/2 year suspended sentence. He argues he is now free but the authorities say he must stay under house arrest until the sentence enters force.
Fuming, the charismatic 38-year-old lawyer yesterday cut off the black security bracelet monitoring his movements and posted a photograph on Twitter.
"I refuse to respect the obligations of my illegal house arrest," he said in his blog, adding that he had removed the security bracelet with the help of a pair of kitchen scissors.
While prison officers visited Navalny yesterday to photograph the cut bracelet, no further action followed.
A Moscow court today rejected a complaint from the prison service, saying it cannot "consider such documents after the verdict has been announced in a criminal case," court spokeswoman Yulia Petrova told RIA Novosti news agency.
Russian law "says clearly that a defendant should be immediately freed in the courtroom if there is a guilty verdict with punishment that is not imprisonment," Navalny wrote on his blog.
Today, Navalny walked out of his Moscow flat and went to a shop to buy milk, he recorded on Twitter. He then posted a photograph taken by his wife of him being followed back by three men in dark winter clothes.
After the verdict on December 30 which also saw Navalny's brother Oleg jailed for three and a half years, Navalny had initially breached his house arrest by heading to a rally of his supporters on Moscow's central Manezhnaya Square, only to be detained by police.
Russia's prison service said then it was notifying the court of Navalny's house arrest violation.
It was unclear today whether Navalny would eventually face any punishment for his latest act of defiance.