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Alexi Navalny
Alexei Navalny, the Russian blogger who faces jailvia Wikimedia Commons

Facebook blocks page supporting anti-Putin protester

Russians can no longer access a support page for a famous dissident

Once heralded as an important pro-democracy platform for sharing political ideas, Facebook proved that it can be leaned on by governments after it appeared to shut down a support page for Alexei Navalny, a prominent anti-Putin dissident and journalist who's written extensively about corruption in Russia.

On Friday, Navalny and his brother Oleg were told by proescutors that they should face ten years in prison for stealing around £300,000 for two companies, something that they vehemently deny. Yves Rocher, a French cosmetics company that Navalny is said to have stolen from, say that no crime has been committed. It's a common perception in Russia that the charges against Navalny and his brother are part of a smear campaign.

Facebook page was set up on Friday in order to organise a protest on January 15, the day of the sentencing. It's visible in the UK, but reports in Russia are that the page is blocked. So far, 13,000 people are marked as attending.

According to the Washington Post, Russia's internet regulator confessed it had asked Facebook to block the page as it was helping to facilitate an "unauthorised mass event". Under a new Russian law activated in February, authorities can block any page that may "disturb public peace". Twitter accounts have also been blocked or taken down in Russia at the request of the regulators.

Navalny has been a constant thorn in the Kremlin's side. In 2011 and 2012 he led large street protests against Putin and last year came runner-up in Moscow's mayoral elections. He wrote on his personal account page that he considered Russian Facebook's behaviour to be "unexpected and unpleasant".

We've asked Facebook for comment and we'll update the story when we can.