Russia

Putin just arrested his biggest critic on the way to a protest

UPDATE: Monday June 12, 6:04 p.m.: Putin critic Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 30 days in prison hours after his arrest on charges of participating in an unauthorized protest, according to the BBC.

Previously published story:

The Kremlin on Monday moved to once again silence the main opposition leader ahead of protest marches in cities across Russia, arresting Alexei Navalny outside his home as he was heading to an unauthorized anti-corruption march in central Moscow. Reports suggest baton-wielding police have arrested over 400 protesters in the Russian capital already and another 300 in St. Petersburg.

The protest Navalny was due to attend took place on Tverskaya Street leading up to the Kremlin and Red Square, which was hosting historical re-enactments of Russian military achievements to mark Russia Day, the national holiday dedicated to the 1990 declaration of sovereignty.

Navalny’s wife posted a picture of the moment her husband was arrested on his official Twitter feed, saying, “Alexei has been arrested in the entrance to our block of flats. Our plans haven’t changed.”

Authorities had granted permission to march on a secondary street in Moscow, far from crowds gathering to celebrate Russia Day. However, Navalny called on supporters to go to Tverskaya Street instead, which appears to have led to his arrest. Police later said Navalny could be jailed for up to 15 days for failing to follow police orders and violating a public order.

Thousands of supporters did gather at the unauthorized location, shouting “Russia without Putin” and “Down with the tsar,” according to a BBC report. The government drafted riot police to deal with the illegal protest, with multiple reports of them wielding batons while rounding up hundreds of protesters.

According to Open Russia, a civil society organization led by former oil tycoon and well-known dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, more than 400 have been detained in Moscow, with arrests continuing there and in St. Petersburg. Other reports put the number lower, with OVD-Info, an NGO, saying 121 people have been detained in Moscow and 137 in St. Petersburg.

Besides arresting the opposition leader, some believe authorities were also seeking to limit news of the protests spreading by severing the electricity and internet connection to Navalny’s party headquarters.

Navalny is seeking to highlight alleged corruption within the Russian government, but he is also seeking to promote his bid to run against President Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential election. As a result of a felony conviction, Navalny is technically barred from running, but even if he persuades the authorities to let him run, it’s highly unlikely he’d unseat Putin.

The protests on Monday come months after the largest political demonstrations in five years took place in March, with up to 60,000 people taking to the streets across Russia to protest alleged corruption linked to the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Navalny was also detained at those marches and jailed for 15 days.

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