Ally of jailed Kremlin critic Navalny calls off protests for now

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - An associate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Thursday his allies would not be holding street protests in the immediate future, toning down the rhetoric following mass rallies across Russia and thousands of arrests.

A Russian court sentenced Navalny on Tuesday ignoring warnings from the West in a ruling the opposition politician blamed on President Vladimir Putin's personal hatred and fear of him.

Police have detained thousands of people in recent weeks for taking part in rallies against Navalny's jailing, according to a protest monitor.

"We will hold rallies, but not every week. (We will start) in spring and summer," Leonid Volkov, currently outside Russia, told an online video channel.

He added Navalny's allies would try to get him out of prison with the help of pressure from foreign countries.

The United States, Britain, Germany and the European Union have urged Moscow to immediately free Navalny, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Washington would coordinate closely with allies to hold Russia accountable.

Volkov said Navalny wanted only peaceful protest and a "smart voting" strategy to support the candidates best placed to beat the ruling United Russia party in elections.

Russia holds its next parliamentary election in the autumn.

(Reporting by Anton Zverev and Vladimir Soldatkin. Editing by Mark Potter)