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Alexei Navalny supporters clash with police as mass protests expected across Russia


Police have clashed with protesters as series of demonstrations in support of jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny begins across Russia.

The gatherings, which police have declared illegal, are the first by Mr Navalny’s supporters since he was arrested last weekend on his return to Moscow, after spending five months in Germany recovering from novichok poisoning.

More than 200 people have been detained across Russia because of the protests, according to a monitoring group, and there have been scuffles in the southeastern city of Khabarovsk, the location for one of up to 70 marches this weekend.

Police detain a man in Khabarovsk, Russia, during a protest against the jailing of Alexei Navalny. Pic: AP
Image:
Police detain a man in Khabarovsk, Russia, during a protest against the jailing of Alexei Navalny. Pic: AP

Videos also show people being taken away from a protest in Yakutsk, where people have been gathering in -50C temperatures, and one person lying on the ground, apparently injured, in Novosibirsk.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, are shown at rallies and marches in Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk.

Mr Navalny, 44, who is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

He is charged with breaking his bail conditions – and is facing a potential three-and-a half-year jail term if found guilty.

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Navalny supporters clash with Russian police

Protesters gathered in support of Mr Navalny in temperatures on -50C in Yakutsk. Pic: Ksenia Korshun/via REUTERS
Image:
Protesters gathered in support of Mr Navalny in temperatures on -50C in Yakutsk. Pic: Ksenia Korshun/via REUTERS

They face charges of rioting, fines, problems at work, prison and even threats over child custody as the Russian state tries to crack down on the demonstrations, which could be the largest against Mr Putin since 2018.

Officials also enforced a crackdown in the run-up to the demonstrations, arresting members of Mr Navalny’s team, including his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh.

They have launched an investigation after young Navalny supporters flooded TikTok with anti-Putin videos, pushing for people to support the action this weekend and using the using the hashtags #freenavalny and #23Jan.

The content has been viewed more than 300 million times.

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TikTok videos in support of Navalny

Anger mounted against Mr Putin this week after Mr Navalny’s team released a documentary exposing a vast and opulent palace built by Russia’s leader on the Black Sea coast.

The programme claims the complex – 39 times larger than Monaco – cost £1bn to build and was funded through illicit money.

It is said to have a casino, an underground ice hockey complex and a vineyard.

More than 60 million people have now viewed the Russian-language video on YouTube within three days of it being published.

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Navalny calls for protests over his arrest

On Friday, ahead of the weekend of planned protests, Mr Navalny issued a statement saying he wanted it known that he had no plans to take his own life in prison.

The arrest of Mr Navalny has attracted widespread criticism from Western leaders, sparking new tensions in the already strained relationship with the US.

Despite the plans for the protests, Mr Putin’s grip on power appears solid, with the 68-year-old regularly recording approval ratings of more than 60%, many times higher than those of Mr Navalny.





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