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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police briefly detained anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny on Wednesday after the prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin submitted documents to register as a candidate for the Moscow mayor election in September.
Navalny, 37, who is accused of embezzling funds from a state firm and faces six years imprisonment in a trial due to end next week, had been greeting several hundred supporters after leaving the election committee when he was dragged into a police van.
Surrounding the van to prevent it driving away, the crowd chanted "Shame!" and "Navalny is our mayor!"
"It is as bizarre for me as it is for all of you," Navalny said after being released. "I am grateful to those people who blocked the (police) bus and prevented it from leaving."
Navalny's future remains uncertain as he awaits the July 18 verdict in a trial in which he is accused of embezzling half a million U.S. dollars from a state timber company in 2009.
State prosecutors are seeking a six-year jail term for Navalny, who denies any wrongdoing and says the trial is a political vendetta orchestrated by the Kremlin to put an end to his political activity.
Under Russian law Navalny, who has also expressed presidential ambitions, will not be able to run in the September 8 Moscow race or any future elections if he is convicted next week in the provincial city of Kirov, 1,000 km east of Moscow.
Putin's critics point to the Navalny trial as an example of an intensifying crackdown on dissent since the former KGB spy returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, writing Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Gareth Jones)