Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday rejected a claim by leading Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, that a luxury Black Sea property belongs to him.
"Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did," Putin said during a video call, in reference to a video that Navalny's team published last week. The video has been viewed more than 86 million times on YouTube.
Navalny ally calls for new protests
Meanwhile, an ally of Navalny called for new protests across Russia on January 31 to demand the release of the opposition politician, who is serving a 30-day jail sentence in relation to a case about alleged parole violations.
Leonid Volkov, the ally, made the call on the Telegram messaging app and Twitter, and promised to share more details later on Monday.
"January 31, 12:00. All cities of Russia. For freedom for Navalny. For freedom for everyone. For justice. More details later today," Volkov tweeted.
Gerhard Mangott, a Russia expert at Innsbruck University, told DW that he expects protests in Russia to continue, as social frustration has built up in recent years.
Protesters have been "woken up" from their resignation, he said.
"They have been galvanized — not so much by the poisoning of Alexei Navalny — but by his current arrest and by this video about Putin's alleged palace on the Black Sea," said Mangott, adding that the new protests in Russia may be attracting a larger audience.
"Not everyone who took to the streets on Saturday was demonstrating for Navalny, there were a large number of people who are frustrated about economic recession and political corruption."
Russian police on Saturday detained more than 3,500 people – a record for a single day – at rallies in over 100 cities around the country. Protesters took to the streets to call for "Navalny's freedom, for freedom for all, and for justice."
The 44-year-old activist was detained earlier this month upon his arrival to Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering following a poisoning attack with the Novichok nerve agent.
He could be jailed for more than three years if the court rules in favor of Russia's incarceration system, which says Navalny failed to check in with it twice per month while he was recovering in Germany.
Moscow accuses US tech firms of interference
The calls come as Moscow issued a complaint to the US embassy for what the Kremlin said were social media posts promoting anti-Russian demonstrations, and accused big US tech companies of interfering in the country's internal affairs.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state-run media that Russia had complained to US diplomats for "supporting illegal rallies" in several cities, and said officials would probe American companies over their alleged interference.
"We are doing serious work on how American internet platforms were involved in the American side's interference in our internal affairs," she said.
Ahead of last weekend's demonstrations, Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered several social media networks, including YouTube and Instagram, to delete calls for rallies that were posted on their platforms.
lc/rt (AFP, Reuters)