Opposition supporters rally across Russia, Navalny briefly detained at unsanctioned Moscow protest

Opposition supporters rally across Russia, Navalny briefly detained at unsanctioned Moscow protest
Supporters of opposition figure Aleksey Navalny gathered for mostly unauthorized rallies across Russia on Saturday. The activist himself was briefly detained at a protest in Moscow, as police dispersed illegal asemblies.

Some 1,500 people gathered for the unsanctioned protest in the center of Moscow, according to police estimates. Roughly 300 of them, including the activist himself, were detained for violating rules on organizing public demonstrations.

Navalny, who was banned from participating in the March presidential elections due to his pending five-year suspended sentence, called on Russians to hold a day of rallies across the country on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration, scheduled for May 7.

Moscow authorities had offered the demonstration’s organizers several venues for the rally, but all options were rejected – including Sakharov Avenue in the center of the capital, which had hosted a thousands-strong rally in support of banned internet messenger Telegram less than a week ago.

Navalny instead urged his supporters to descend on Tverskaya Street, claiming a ‘constitutional right’ to gather wherever and whenever they want. The city accordingly warned the protesters that the venue where they were planning to march was unauthorized.

Following a brief detention, Navalny was eventually released from custody shortly after midnight and pending a court hearing. A number of minors and underage teens, who comprise much of the activist-blogger’s support base and some of whom were detained at the rallies, have also been released to their parents or guardians, after "preventive conversations," police announced around 10pm.

Meanwhile, around 2,000 took part in another unsanctioned protest in St. Petersburg, according to local police, where some 200 of the most “active participants” were detained.

Protests have been held in other cities across Russia as well. While some gatherings were sanctioned by the authorities, most were held without the required permits. The protests were largely incident-free, according to police. A number of protesters, however, were detained during unsanctioned rallies in several cities, namely in Krasnoyarsk, Samara, RIA Novosti reported, citing police. In other cities, such as Omsk, Cheboksary, Ufa and other locations, law enforcement did not detain anyone during the unauthorized gatherings, as protesters peacefully dispersed after warnings.

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