Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on trial for embezzlement

KIROV, Russia (AP) - The trial of a Russian opposition leader accused of embezzling half a million dollars' worth of timber from a state-run company has started in a northwestern city.

Lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who spearheaded anti-government protests in 2011, and his former colleagues are accused of leading an organised criminal group that embezzled 16 million rubles (S$617,280) worth of timber from a state-owned company in the city of Kirov.

As the trial began on Tuesday, several dozen activists demonstrated in support of Navalny outside the courthouse in Kirov, chanting "We will not let you go!"

The charges not only threaten to send the 36-year-old Navalny to prison, but strike at the essence of his image as an anti-corruption activist.

Navalny has said the charges are an act of revenge for his exposure of high-level corruption.