More than 1,600 people — including prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny — were arrested Saturday in Russia during a day of nationwide protests of the upcoming inauguration of Vladimir Putin for a new six-year term as president, according to a group that monitors political repression. Navalny, a long-time Putin nemesis and anti-corruption campaigner, organised the nationwide rallies under the slogan “He is not our czar” in response to the president’s re-election in March.
Navalny, who was banned from participating in the March presidential elections due to his pending five-year suspended sentence, called on Russians to hold a day of rallies across the country on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration, scheduled for May 7
Navalny’s arrest by the police happened after he arrived at the unsanctioned rally in the Russian capital on Saturday afternoon. RT reported that following a brief detention, Navalny was eventually released from custody shortly after midnight and pending a court hearing. A number of minors and underage teens, who comprise much of the activist-blogger’s support base and some of whom were detained at the rallies, have also been released to their parents or guardians, after “preventive conversations,” police announced around 10pm.
“Navalny appeared on Pushkinskaya [Square] and was quickly detained,” opposition politician Leonid Volkov said during an online broadcast. Volkov called the detention “absolutely illegal”. Reporters with AFP news agency also reported Navalny’s detention.
Navalny, who has been jailed in the past for organising unauthorised protests, had called for people critical of Putin’s leadership to take to the streets in advance of the Russian president’s inauguration for a fourth term on Monday. OVD-info, a human rights monitor, said about 1,600 people had been detained nationwide during widespread protests, including more than 700 in Moscow alone.
Arrests were made at rallies in 26 cities throughout Russia, including St Petersburg, according to the monitor.
Sources Al Jazeera, AFP, RT, VOA