MOSCOW – Police on Saturday detained more than 200 people in Russia’s Far East and Siberia as protesters rallied nationwide to demand the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after a bitter cold and a ban by authorities organised.
Navalny called for his supporters to protest after he was arrested last weekend when he returned to Moscow from Germany after consuming poison with a military-grade nerve agent in August.
Video footage of Vladivostok showed the riot police chasing a group of protesters down the street, while protesters in Khabarovsk lowered the temperature to about -14 Celsius (7 ° F), “Shy!” And “bandits!”
Police in the Siberian city of Yakutsk caught a guard with his arms and legs and dragged him into a van, which is shown in video footage from the scene.
The OVD-Info monitoring group said 238 people, including 56 in Novosibirsk, were detained at countrywide rallies so far.
In Moscow, police set up barricades around Pushkinsaya Square as activists engaged in re-tiling it, an apparent attempt to thwart a demonstration that was scheduled to begin at 1100 GMT.
Police detained some people gathered at the square before the rally, including a lone picker.
Navalny, an ex-lawyer who accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering his assassination, could face years in prison in legal matters he calls Trumped. Putin has denied involvement.
Navalny’s supporters are hoping that they can produce a show of anti-Kremlin street support despite winter conditions and the coronavirus epidemic to pressure authorities to free him.
The West has asked Moscow to let it go, instigating new tensions in an already tense Russia as US President Joe Biden begins his administration.
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To bolster further support for the protests, Navalny’s team released a video about a grand palace on the Black Sea, accusing them of Putin, which the Kremlin denied. As of Saturday, the clip had been viewed more than 65 million times.
Authorities had already banned the protests. The police have attended rallies, rounded up several of Navalny’s associates, whom he called for illegal protests and kept at least two of them in jail for more than a week, including Navalni’s spokesperson Was.
Navalny’s colleagues hoped that the results of the election would emphasize that there was public disappointment over falling wages and economic decline from the epidemic. But Putin’s grip on power seems unprovoked and the 68-year-old president routinely records an approval rating of over 60 percent, which is several times higher than Navalny’s.
The US embassy published the locations and times of the protest, telling the Americans to stay away. Russia’s foreign ministry called it “gross interference” in the country’s domestic affairs.