Pavel Ustinov has been released from detention hours after a Moscow judge took the rare move of accepting a request by prosecutors to allow the actor his freedom while appealing a conviction for violence against police during a protest rally last month he insists he did not participate in.
Ustinov left the Moscow pretrial detention center on September 20, but must remain in the capital until his appeal process ends, according to terms of his bail.
Ustinov is one of several Russians who have been jailed for several years over a series of political protests against a decision by the authorities to bar opposition candidates from participating in local elections held earlier this month.
Police and legal officials have been sharply criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during and after the protests, which drew some of the biggest crowds since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Critics say the convictions have been overly harsh and an overt attempt to scare off others from joining the protests.
The court found Ustinov guilty of verbally insulting police and assaulting a National Guard officer during the August 3 rally and sentenced him on September 16.
Ustinov, who once worked as a National Guard officer, pleaded not guilty, saying he was standing nearby and was not participating in the rally at which activists challenged the refusal by officials to register opposition and independent candidates for Moscow city-council elections that took place on September 8.
Video taken during the arrest shows several law enforcement officials walking up to Ustinov and violently arresting him even though it appears he was doing nothing.
His sister, Yulia, has told RFE/RL that Ustinov was at Pushkin Square the day of the rally to meet a friend. While he was calling the friend, she says, police attacked.
Ustinov’s imprisonment has sparked an outcry among the entertainment community, as well as from teachers, priests, and even some members of the Moscow city council.
On September 18, about 100 actors staged a protest taking minute-long shifts with each holding a placard demanding the actor’s release. Russian law allows so-called single-picket protests without permission from the authorities.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on September 19 that "the situation [around Ustinov] is developing in accordance with law" and that "the president cannot interfere in the situation."
The August 3 rally was part of a wave of demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of Russians onto the streets of Moscow.
Police violently dispersed several of the protests and more than 2,000 people were detained, drawing international condemnation.