Russian police arrest supporters of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Moscow: Supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Saturday were arrested by the police, as they are taking to the streets to protest in more than 60 cities, demanding the Kremlin critic’s immediate release.

The protests started in the Far East and Siberia, including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Chita, with thousands of participants, Voice of America reported.

Police had already detained Navalny’s associates in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia for the anticipation of the rallies. They have also warned opposition supporters against protesting and independent journalists against covering them.

Russian universities have told students not to attend the pro-Navalny rallies, some threatening them with disciplinary action, including expulsion, Voice of America reported.

This comes after Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, was jailed this week upon returning from Germany where he was recovering after being poisoned by a nerve agent.

With the court’s order on Monday, Navalny will have to remain in prison till February 15 and a different court has been set to decide whether to convert his suspended three and a half year sentence into real jail time, Al Jazeera reported.

He had arrived in Germany five months ago in a coma after being poisoned by Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia during the Soviet years. Several Western officials along with Navalny himself have openly blamed Russia for the poisoning, while the Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Navalny was placed on the country’s federal wanted list during his time in Germany at the request of the Federal Penitentiary Service FSIN’s, which had accused him in December 2020 of violating probation terms in a fraud case that was dismissed by Navalny as “politically motivated”.

Now the FSIN alleges that Navalny has been in violation of the terms of his suspended sentence by failing to show up for scheduled inspections.
Meanwhile, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and the European Union have called for Navalny’s release.