A central Russian court ordered an organizer of a series of anti-government protests imprisoned, just before another protest march was to come.
Opposition leaders said the decision by the court in Samara, about 900 kilometers (550 miles) southeast of Moscow, was the first in which an activist was sentenced to a significant prison term in connection with organizing protests. They also accused authorities of trying to intimidate dissent ahead of another protest planned next week for Samara, where a Russia-European Union summit is to be held.
Samara's Kirov District Court ruled that Ilya Guryev should serve out the remaining six months of a suspended sentence in prison, said Marina Litvinovich, an activist with Other Russia, a grouping of leftist and liberal opposition organizations.
The court found that Guryev, from the banned National Bolshevik Party, failed to register with authorities as part of the conditions for the sentence, Litvinovich said. Guryev earlier had been convicted for occupying a government building in 2004 during a protest.
Along with former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, the Bolshevik party - a political organization known for political pranks that largely have targeted the Kremlin leadership - is a central member to Other Russia.
"The fact a man was put in prison simply for being an organizer with the Other Russia is a serious symptom that shows that the authorities are really out to get us, and it is not the first prison term we will see over the next six months," Litvinovich said.
No one answered phones at the Samara court Thursday afternoon.
The March 18 rally planned by Other Russia in Samara would be latest of a series of so-called Dissenters' Marches, which have been held in several Russian cities and have ended mainly in detentions and beatings of protesters by police.
Russia's fragmented opposition groups are struggling to unite before December parliamentary elections and the March presidential vote, when President Vladimir Putin is constitutionally bound to step down.