Thousands of opposition supporters arrested across Russia

Moscow, Jan 23 (efe-epa).- Supporters of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who has been in custody for six days, took to the streets in a hundred Russian cities on Saturday to challenge President Vladimir Putin despite a violent police crackdown and more than 2,000 arrests across the country.

Navalny has been in custody since he was detained upon his return to Russia last week.

He had been in Germany recovering from the poisoning he suffered last year. The opposition leader and the international community suspect the Russian state of being behind the alleged poisoning.

There were arrests at every rally. According to the OVD-info portal, which tracks detentions, said 2,250 people were arrested on Saturday for taking part in the protests, 855 of whom were arrested in Moscow, while another 372 were in St. Petersburg.

The marches are taking place under the slogan “Freedom!” to demand the release of Navalny, whom Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service accuses of having breached the terms of a suspended 3-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to him in 2014. The European Court of Human Rights has said the ruling is illegal.

In Moscow, where the march to demand Navalny’s release began at 2pm on the central Pushkinskaya Square, arrests began before the event had even started, Efe was able to ascertain.

Among those detained is one of Navalny’s main allies, politician and lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK), Liubov Sobol.

Sobol, one of the most visible faces on Navalny’s team, was forcibly taken away by riot police officers when she was making statements to the media.

Russian authorities had already warned in recent days that they would take action against anyone attending unauthorized marches.


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