Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny detained in Moscow | News | DW | 22.02.2018
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Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny detained in Moscow

Navalny was taken into custody and later released by authorities. He faces a court hearing and 30 days in jail. His campaign manager was separately arrested and remains in detention.

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was detained by police in Moscow on Thursday as he left his dentist's office. He later took to Twitter to inform followers that he had been charged with repeatedly violating rules prohibiting him from organizing political rallies. He wrote: "I've been released pending trial. I don't know when the hearing will be."

Navalny suggested the Kremlin had orchestrated the arrest in order to keep him behind bars in the run-up to Russia's March 18 presidential election. Navalny is barred from candidacy due to a prior conviction for financial crimes, a verdict he called politically motivated.

Read more: Opinion: In Russia's election, words count more than action

Taking to the streets

Navalny has been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin for years, regularly organizing anti-corruption demonstrations aimed at Russia's political establishment. The 41-year-old has a large, mainly young, online following that is also willing to take to the streets in protest.

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Navalny recently called on supporters to boycott the March presidential vote. The call has caused concern at the Kremlin, which fears low voter turnout could undermine claims of President Vladimir Putin's widespread popularity. Nevertheless, it is considered a foregone conclusion that Putin will win the election, securing his fourth term in the Kremlin. 

Last week, authorities blocked Navalny's website after a viral video alleging corruption between Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko and billionaire tycoon Oleg Deripaska was viewed more than 750,000 times. Both men deny the accusations.

Rounding up the troublemakers

In a separate incident, Navalny's campaign manager Leonid Volkov was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport Thursday as well. Volkov's current whereabouts are unknown. He had been preparing to board a plane to the regional republic of Bashkortostan to organize election monitoring.

Russian authorities have arrested and jailed a number of Navalny supports over the last several days. They are all charged with having participated in an illegal demonstration on January 28.

The detentions also come days before a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov on Sunday. The popular opposition leader was gunned down on a bridge in front of the Kremlin on February 27, 2015.

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js/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

 

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