Riot police detain Left Front movement leader Udaltsov during a demonstration for fair elections in central Moscow
Riot police detain Left Front movement leader Sergei Udaltsov during demonstration for fair elections in central Moscow (Reuters)

A prominent Russian opposition leader has been sentenced to 10 days in jail after being arrested at a protest against Vladimir Putin's presidential victory earlier this month.

Left Front movement leader Sergei Udaltsov, 34, was detained after leading dozens of protesters toward Pushkin Square in central Moscow on 10 March and charged with failing to obey police instructions.

"My supporters and I only wanted to walk peacefully after the rally to Pushkin Square - this is not forbidden, we are free citizens," Udaltsov told the court.

Udaltsov was also arrested following the disputed Russian parliamentary elections in December, at which time he was charged with "resisting officers' recommendations to cross the road in the correct place".

He was a key figure in the mass demonstrations that swept Russia after the elections, which were allegedly rigged.

In December, Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate release

The activist even went on hunger strike while behind bars to draw attention to his plight as well as prison conditions.

The day after the presidential election, on 5 March outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told prosecutors to review the conviction of former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an arch opponent of Vladimir Putin, Medvedev's predecessor and soon-to-be successor.

Khodorkovsky's imprisonment has been widely condemned as being politically motivated. As the head of oil giant Yukos, he was arrested in 2003 and convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2005.

He was released before the 2009 presidential election, but his staunch and uncompromising attitude towards Putin led to a second period of imprisonment for allegedly stealing from Yukos.