Navalny's supporters have vowed to continue the struggle Continue reading the main story Putin's Russia

Profile: Alexei Navalny Navalny: A Mandela moment? Fates of Putin's enemies Profile: Vladimir Putin

The conviction and jailing of Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny has led to widespread criticism.

Navalny was imprisoned for five years for embezzlement from a timber firm. He had denied the charges, saying the trial was politically motivated.

The EU said the verdict posed "serious questions" about Russian law, while the US said it was "deeply disappointed".

In Moscow, about 5,000 protesters in the city centre were met with a large police presence.

Earlier, witnesses told independent Dozhd TV that police had cleared the central Manezh Square of Navalny supporters, and that some people appeared to have been detained. The adjacent Red Square and Alexandrovsky Gardens were closed, the channel said.

In Kirov, where the trial was held, at least two Navalny supporters were arrested following scuffles with the police after the verdict and sentence were announced. Continue reading the main story Analysis image of Bridget Kendall Bridget Kendall Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

today's verdict bars Navalny from political office. have shown that in today's Russia it is still possible to be heard from inside prison. Not only is he young and vigorous and an effective user of social media. And his apparent sympathy for nationalist sentiments. reflected in his infamous jibes at the expense of non-Russian migrants. would have worried the Kremlin.and crucially. Russian state television . Before he was handcuffed and led away. He came to public attention when he inspired mass protests against the Kremlin and President Putin in December 2011. an earlier political opponent of the Kremlin who ended up with two long sentences.000. while upsetting liberals." Navalny was found guilty of heading a group that embezzled timber worth 16m rubles ($500.he could appeal to the same strata of society Mr Putin needs to maintain his hold on Russian politics. who made his reputation through whistle-blowing activities as a lawyer. and regularly blogged about corruption allegations.000) from the Kirovles state timber company while working as an adviser to Kirov's governor Nikita Belykh. tweeting: "Don't sit around doing nothing. One can be sure that Navalny. 'Parody of a trial' The 37-year-old is a leading campaigner against President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.In the last year or so Alexei Navalny had become probably Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. But once the appeals are exhausted. Even if he is unsuccessful. . he is also a talented orator. The Kremlin will hope the outcome of this trial will in effect sideline him from the frontline of Russian politics. If ever he gained access to mainstream Russian media . The activities of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. £330. Navalny urged his supporters to continue his anticorruption struggle. will use every avenue to appeal against his sentence. He has already withdrawn from the race to become mayor of Moscow. a life behind bars will not entirely silence him.

Continue reading the main story 1/5 The last Soviet leader. Mikhail Gorbachev. and even the judge could not say what the reason for the crime was". Anti-Putin activist and former cabinet minister Boris Nemtsov told reporters the trial was "completely fabricated from start to finish. State television has only shown limited interest in the process despite Navalny's prominence. Pyotr Ofitserov. The BBC's Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford says that when the sentence was handed down. according to the independent Ekho Moskvy website. was also found guilty. but online the trial has been followed extensively.The prosecution had asked for a six-year jail sentence. and given a four-year jail sentence. Continue reading the main story Alexei Navalny (3rd R) stands in a courtroom in Kirov on July 18. . Jailed former oil executive and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky said the conviction was "predictable and unavoidable". Navalny's co-accused. "There is nothing unusual for the government's opponents to be convicted of crimes in Russia. 2013 Alexei Navalny (centre) took a 12-hour train journey to Kirov for the verdict." he added. and said there were no extenuating circumstances that would warrant keeping Navalny out of prison. said using courts to punish political opponents was "unacceptable". but judge Sergei Blinov decided on five years. there were tears from Navalny's supporters and an explosion of anger on the social networking sites that he has used so effectively.

and was arrested and imprisoned for 15 days Oct 2012: Won most votes in a poll to choose opposition leadership April 2013: Went on trial July 2013: Declared himself a candidate for Moscow mayoral election July 2013: Found guilty of theft and embezzlement Profile: Alexei Navalny A thorn in Putin's side A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the trial had "raised doubts about whether criminal justice was the main motive". famously dubbing it the "party of crooks and thieves" Dec 2011: After the poll. Continue reading the main story Alexei Navalny's rise to prominence 2008: Started blogging about allegations of corruption at some of Russia's big statecontrolled firms Nov 2011: Ahead of parliamentary poll.. he criticised President Putin's United Russia. he inspired mass protests against the Kremlin. he said: "Everything I know about this case. Michael McFaul.In a statement posted on his charity's website. and that Navalny's jailing posed "serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia".. . unfortunately confirms we do not have independent courts." A spokesman for the EU's top foreign policy official." The US ambassador to Moscow. said: "We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial. said the embezzlement charges were unsubstantiated. Catherine Ashton.

said in a statement: "This was a parody of a prosecution and a parody of a trial. Our correspondent said Navalny smiled in a resigned manner when the guilty verdict came. Russian rights group Memorial said the country "now has one more political prisoner". while Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia director. said her husband knew he would get a custodial sentence and was mentally prepared to go to prison. and the judge rejected Navalny's claim the trial was politically motivated. His wife. John Dalhuisen. but his campaign team said that after the verdict he was withdrawing from the race. Yulia Navalnaya. Navalny had recently registered his candidacy for the next mayor of Moscow."Five years in prison appears disproportionate." Steffen Seibert added. given the alleged crime. Pro-government analyst Sergei Markov said many Navalny supporters "realise deep in their souls that the court has proven in a normal way that Navalny was a thief"." But the Kremlin denies that Mr Putin uses the courts for political ends. and called on his supporters to boycott the vote. .