Thousands protest for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny as police crack down

Russian court rejects appeal of Alexei Navalny arrest

The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the USA to stop interfering in Moscow's internal affairs following comments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraging unauthorized rallies taking place across multiple Russian cities.

"We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights", he added, after Russian police detained more than 1,000 people, including 142 in Moscow.

The rallies are part of a campaign to win the release of President Vladimir Putin's staunch opponent, who was arrested on January 17 after returning from Germany.

Navalny, 44, was arrested on January 17 after returning to Moscow from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russian Federation last summer.

KIM: She said she actually does not support Alexei Navalny as a politician, but she respects him for representing people who don't agree with Vladimir Putin.

The rallies began under snowfall around 0900 GMT (5pm Singapore time) amid a huge police presence, Reuters reporters said. OVD-Info, a protest monitoring group said police had detained 1,009 people nationwide. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's support for the violation of [Russian] laws is another confirmation of Washington's behind-the-scenes role. In a police state, with no independent courts.

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets of over 100 cities across the country last Saturday to protest Putin's 20-year-rule.

Police have said the protests were illegal as they had not been authorized and would be broken up.

Authorities have said demonstrators could spread COVID-19.

In Moscow, authorities introduced unprecedented security measures in the city center, closing subway stations near the Kremlin, cutting bus traffic and ordering restaurants and stores to stay closed.

Police detain another participant of Sunday's rally in Moscow
Police detain another participant of Sunday's rally in Moscow

The protests following Navalny's dramatic return to Moscow despite the threat of arrest put Putin in a quandary over how to respond.

Earlier, protesters had rallied in cities including the Pacific port of Vladivostok, where dozens escaped the police on the frozen waters of the Amur Bay and danced in a circle. Police detained more than 120 people in the city, OVD-Info said.

Mr Navalny's team initially called for Sunday's protest to be held in Moscow's Lubyanka Square, home to the main headquarters of the Federal Security Service, which the 44-year-old claims was responsible for his poisoning.

Protesters in one city turned out in temperatures of -52 degrees Celsius.

U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab also said Britain condemned the arrests of protesters and journalists, saying in a tweet: "I call on the @GovernmentRF to respect people's right to peaceful protest".

The protests followed a week of crackdown by authorities targeting supporters of Navalny.

Navalny's top ally, Lyubov Sobol; Anastasia Vasilyeva of the Alliance of Doctors, a union backed by Navalny; and Maria Alyokhina of the Pussy Riot punk collective have been detained for 48 hours along with Navalny's brother Oleg.

"If we remain silent, then tomorrow they will come for any one of us", she wrote.

On Thursday, a Moscow court rejected Mr. Navalny's appeal to be released, and the hearing Tuesday could turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one he must serve in prison.

Seeking to galvanize his followers, Navalny put out an online video this month that has been viewed more than 100 million times, accusing Putin of being the ultimate owner of a sumptuous Black Sea palace.

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