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Russia arrests over 1,000 Navalny supporters at anti-Putin rallies

Published : Sunday, 24 January, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 63

Police officers detain a man prior to an expected rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow on January 23. Navalny, 44, was detained last Sunday upon returning to Moscow after five months in Germany recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent and later jailed for 30 days while awaiting trial for violating a suspended sentence he was handed      in 2014.	photo : AFP

Police officers detain a man prior to an expected rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in downtown Moscow on January 23. Navalny, 44, was detained last Sunday upon returning to Moscow after five months in Germany recovering from a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent and later jailed for 30 days while awaiting trial for violating a suspended sentence he was handed in 2014. photo : AFP

MOSCOW, Jan 23: Russian police on Saturday detained over 1,000 protesters, including the wife of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as several thousands took to the streets nationwide to denounce President Vladimir Putin's rule.
Thousands of people, including teenagers, packed Moscow's central Pushkin Square and nearby streets as riot police hauled off demonstrators and beat others with batons.  Among those detained were Navalny's wife Yulia Navalnaya and his prominent aide Lyubov Sobol.
The protests in Moscow were estimated to be the largest demonstrators since 2019 when Navalny supporters rallied to demand free local elections. Navalny had called on Russians to protest this week after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with Novichok and returning to Moscow following months of treatment in Germany, only to be arrested on arrival.
Some protesters marched towards the Kremlin, while others blocked Tverskaya Street, the Russian capital's main thoroughfare. Police clashed with the demonstrators in the city centre and hit them with truncheons, AFP journalists said. The protesters threw snowballs at the police.
Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund said on Twitter said that "an incredible number" of people had gathered in the capital. Moscow police, which are accused of downplaying turnout at rallies, said 4,000 turned up.
Earlier Saturday thousands took to the streets in the Far East, Siberia and the Urals including Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg. Over 1,000 protesters were arrested across the country, the OVD monitoring group said.
Demonstrators in Moscow reported mobile network disruptions and sporadic internet. Navalny's supporters in Moscow held signs saying "Free Navalny" and "Don't be afraid" and chanted "Putin is the enemy of people."
The rallies are a test of the opposition's ability to mobilise ahead of parliamentary elections this year, despite increasing Kremlin pressure on critics. Protesters said they wanted new leadership and that authorities were persecuting Navalny for speaking the truth.    -AFP



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