Yabloko Official 'Punished for Letter'

ST. PETERSBURG -- An opposition leader said he was being punished for criticizing Karelia's pro-Kremlin governor after a Karelian court found him guilty of extortion.

Vasily Popov, a member of Yabloko who heads the city council of Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia, was given a suspended seven-year sentence and fined 400,000 rubles ($11,000).

The city court said in the verdict that it had found Popov guilty of extorting a large sum of money from a council member, threatening to publish materials compromising him. Popov, the only Yabloko member running the council of a major city, said he would appeal.

In 2007, Popov sent a letter to then-President Vladimir Putin, accusing Karelian Governor Sergei Katanandov of corruption and requesting that he be dismissed. Popov said legal proceedings against him were opened shortly after he sent the letter to Putin.