Russian police raid Navalny office ahead of planned protests

Anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny at the verdict announcement of his criminal case in 2014 | Dmitry Serebryakov  AFP via Getty Images
Anti-Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny at the verdict announcement of his criminal case in 2014 | Dmitry Serebryakov AFP via Getty Images
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29 January, 2018

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who's been barred from taking part in the March 18 vote, was dragged roughly by police into a bus shortly after he arrived at the demonstration on Moscow's central thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street, according to a live video feed from the scene.

"They have detained me", he wrote on Twitter. "This doesn't mean anything. you didn't come out for me, but for your future".

Navalny has little chance of influencing the election, likely to be won comfortably by President Vladimir Putin, but his ability to use social media to mobilise crowds of mostly young protesters in major cities has irked the Kremlin. According to CNN, he faces 30 days in detention and a fine if convicted.

Coordinating protests in the largest country in the world by land mass is no small task, and the Russian Interior Ministry said events coordinated with local authorities were held in 46 places.

Sizable gatherings, from a few dozen to several hundred, reportedly cropped up around Russian Federation after Navalny called for protests.

Earlier in the day opposition supporters protested in far eastern Russian Federation and Siberia, including in the northern city of Yakutsk where people rallied despite temperatures of around minus 45 Celsius (minus 49 Fahrenheit).

"I am proud of all those who joined us today in any capacity: from Magadan to Sochi".

A video stream on Sunday morning from the opposition leader's headquarters showed police entering the office. But the post-Soviet turbulence of the 1990s remains deeply ingrained in Russia's collective psyche, making many reluctant to take to the streets, observers say.

"Be real citizens. Go out to the demo in your city".

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Blogger Alexei Navalny was detained in central Moscow on Sunday for violating rally organization's regulations, the Moscow police's press service told TASS on Sunday.

Police shut down the studio at the office which had been broadcasting online bulletins, but another studio in a different location continued to operate.

"Do you know the formal reason?" "Raids are possible", it said.

One group of protesters walked several kilometres and reached the government headquarters as police watched on.

Police also detained several employees of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation as well as supporters in the regions, his team said. Police said the raid was in reaction to a tip-off about a potential bomb threat, the FT reported.

Russian electoral authorities rejected Navalny's candidacy because he has been convicted of financial crimes, for which he received a suspended sentence.

Mr Putin, who has dominated the Russian political landscape for the past 18 years, described USA criticism of the election commission's decision as crude interference in Russia's internal affairs and suggested Mr Navalny was Washington's pick for the presidency.

Critics say the case against the 41-year-old was politically motivated.


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