Russia: Hundreds Arrested at Navalny Protests
Hundreds of protesters have been detained in Russia as police try to stop nationwide protests in support of jailed activist Alexei Navalny.
Alexei Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said she had been detained at a protest in the capital Moscow, where officers were breaking up the demonstrations.
Thousands of people have already taken part in rallies in Russia’s Far East.
Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critic, called for protests after his arrest last weekend.
The opposition leader was detained on January 17 after he flew back to Moscow from Berlin, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent attack in Russia last August.
On his return, Alexei Navalny was immediately taken into custody and found guilty of violating parole conditions. He says it is a trumped-up case designed to silence him, and called on his supporters to protest.
Several of Navalny’s close aides, including a spokeswoman, have also been detained in the run up to January 23 protests.
Prior to the rallies, Russian authorities had promised a tough crackdown, with police saying any unauthorized demonstrations and provocations would be “immediately suppressed”.
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OVD Info, an independent NGO that monitors rallies, said that more than 800 people had been detained so far in protests across the country.
Thousands are currently attending a protest in Moscow’s central Pushkin Square, where police have erected metal barriers to deter demonstrators.
Russia’s interior ministry said 4,000 had turned up in Moscow, but opposition sources say it may be as high as 15,000.
One witness told Reuters at least 100 people may have been detained there already.
Among them is Lyubov Sobol, a prominent aide of Alexei Navalny who had already been fined for urging Russians to join the protests. Lyubov Sobol tweeted a video of police roughly pulling her away from an interview with reporters.
Yulia Navalnya also said she was being held by police at the same protest, posting an image on her Instagram account with the caption: “Apologies for the poor quality. Very bad light in the police van.”
Several of Alexei Navalny’s key aides had already been taken into police custody in the days leading up to January 23 protests, including his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh.
Prominent Navalny activists are also being held in the cities of Krasnodar, Vladivostok and Novosibirsk.