Pro-Navalny protests staged in Russia’s far east

Moscow, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of people in several cities of Russia’s far eastern region demonstrated on Saturday in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Navalny’s team said, on its Telegram channel, that there was a big rally in Ulan-Ude, and participation in the protests had exceeded expectations.

It also posted a video showing hundreds of people chanting “freedom” in a plaza.

Protests were staged in 94 Russian cities to demand the release of the opposition leader, who was arrested on Jan. 17 on his arrival in Moscow from Germany.

He was in Germany for treatment and rehabilitation after he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in an assassination attempt that he claimed was personally ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny faces 3.5 years in prison for allegedly failing to comply with a suspended jail sentence handed down against him in 2014.

In the city of Irkutsk, located southwest of Baikal, hundreds of opposition supporters marched, chanting “Putin, thief!” and “We are the power!”

According to a video broadcast by Navalny’s team, the demonstrators even reached the local administration carrying banners reading “Freedom” and chanting “Get out!”.

In Vladivostok city of the Primorye region, about 500 protesters took to the streets, and riot police dispersed them, Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing local authorities.

Videos posted by protesters on Twitter show police officers with batons and shields charging at the crowd to surround and apprehend demonstrators.

At least 23 people were detained during the protests in Vladivostok, according to OVD-Info, which monitors politically-motivated arrests and persecutions in Russia.

In Khabarovsk, some 300 demonstrators gathered at the central Lenin Square, where they were outnumbered by police officials, according to news website DVHAB.ru.

The police cordoned off the square, but the demonstrators joined hands and began circling the officers, a video by Navalny’s team showed.

When the protesters decided to march around the city, riot police arrested a dozen of them.

The Russian authorities repeatedly warned that demonstrations were not authorized and urged people not to participate.

They also warned that they would act against those who violate the law.

According to OVD-Info, police arrested a total of 125 people in some 20 cities.

As the rest of the Russian cities prepare to stage protests, central Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square, where the protesters are supposed to gather, was fenced off by the City Council for renovation work to replace the pavement’s cobblestones, news web portal Meduza reported.

More than 5,600 people said they would attend the Moscow demonstration in response to a Facebook post by Navalny’s team. EFE-EPA


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