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Police arrest over 1,000 at Russia protests backing jailed Kremlin foe Navalny

Police arrest over 1,000 at Russia protests backing jailed Kremlin foe Navalny
January 23, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Police detained over 1,000 people across Russia on Saturday and used force to break up rallies around the country as tens of thousands of protesters demanded the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose wife was among those detained.

Navalny had called on his supporters to protest after being arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent he says was applied to his underpants by state security agents in August.

The authorities had warned people to stay away from Saturday’s protests, saying they risked catching COVID-19 as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorised event.

But protesters defied the ban and bitter cold, and turned out in force.

In central Moscow, where Reuters reporters estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in one of the biggest unauthorised rallies for years, police were seen roughly detaining people, bundling them into nearby vans.

The authorities said just some 4,000 people had shown up.