Prominent Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny said yesterday the jail sentence handed to a protester against President Vladimir Putin highlighted the government's harsh approach to dissent.

Fitness club manager Maxim Luzyanin, the first of 17 people arrested during a protest in Moscow's Bolotnaya Square on the eve of Putin's inauguration in May, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years on Friday for "mass disorder" and violence against the police.

Luzyanin was the only member of the group to plead guilty.

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