The conviction of Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny, his jailing and surprise release pending appeal were legal court decisions that should be respected, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Friday.
"Both things were done in accordance with the law," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in the first Kremlin comment on the high-profile verdict, quoted by Russian news agencies.
"Court decisions must be respected, they are law," Peskov said, adding that Putin "cannot comment or evaluate the decision" but is "aware" of the case.
Navalny, a charismatic leader of the anti-Putin opposition, was sentenced to five years in a penal colony Thursday by a court in northern Kirov region on charges of embezzlement, and was handcuffed in the courtroom.
However in a remarkably rare occurrence, prosecutors who had initially asked for his arrest appealed the immediate jailing, and Navalny was released Friday morning to remain free until the court decision goes into effect.
Several thousand people gathered in central Moscow near the Kremlin Thursday evening cheering and clapping into the early hours of Friday when police cleared the area, arresting over 200 people.
"One cannot approve of such gatherings, and we can only hope that everything will be done in accordance with the law in the future," Peskov said of the rally, which was not sanctioned by the Moscow City Hall.