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Hundreds were arrested in protests in Russia with the support of the Kremlin’s rival Navalny

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were arrested across Russia on Saturday as police used force to disperse marches in cities across the country as protesters demanded the release of Kremlin critics. Alexey Navalny.

Navalny’s wife, Julia, said on social media that she was arrested at a rally Central Moscow Which was attended by at least 40,000 people, according to an estimate of Reuters correspondents.

Her husband called for his supporters to protest after he was arrested last weekend upon his return to Russia Germany after its poisoning A nerve agent, he says, was put on his underpants by state security agents in August.

The authorities had warned people to stay away from the Saturday protests, saying they risked being caught Corona Virus Plus prosecution and possible prison time for attending an unauthorized event.

Police were seen violently arresting people and gathering them in nearby trucks.

But the demonstrators defied the ban, the bitter cold, and came out in force. Some chanted “Putin is a thief,” “Shame,” “Navalny’s freedom!”

Some of Navalny’s political allies were arrested in the days leading up to the protests.

The protest watch group OVD-Info said that at least 1,090 people, including 300 in Moscow and 162 in St. Petersburg, have been arrested across Russia, and the number is likely to rise. It spoke of arrests at rallies in about 70 towns and cities.

Navalny, A 44-year-old lawyer, in a prison in Moscow, awaiting the outcome of four legal issues, which he describes as fabricated. Accuse President Vladimir Putin From the order to try to kill him. Putin denied this, claiming Navalny was part of a US-backed dirty tricks campaign to discredit him.

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One of the demonstrators in Moscow, Sergei Radchenko, 53, said: “I am tired of fear. Not only for myself and Navalny, but for my son, because there is no future in this country.”

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin, which previously described the protests as illegal and the work of “instigators”.

Video footage from Russia’s Far East showed riot police in Vladivostok chasing a group of protesters on the street, while protesters in Khabarovsk, defying temperatures of -14 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit), chanted “Bandits!”

Video footage showed that police in Yakutsk, Siberia, yesterday, Saturday, arrested one of the demonstrators by the arms and legs and pulled him in a truck.

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Opposition politician Dmitry Godkov said the scale of protests in the regions was extraordinary.

He wrote on Twitter: “Everyone should be truly bored of theft and lies if the regions rise up like this.”

The monitoring website showed that mobile and internet services suffered disruptions on Saturday, a tactic the authorities sometimes use to make it difficult for protesters to communicate and share video footage online.

In an effort to rally support before the protests, Navalny’s team released a video of a luxurious Black Sea mansion they claimed belonged to Putin, something the Kremlin denied. As of Saturday, the clip had been viewed by more than 68 million views.

Navalny’s allies We hope to benefit from what the polls say are pent-up frustrations among the public over the years of falling wages and the economic fallout from the pandemic.

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But Putin’s grip on power appears irreplaceable at the moment, and the 68-year-old president regularly records a approval rating of over 60 percent, much higher than that of Navalny.

American embassy She posted the locations and times of the protests, and asked the Americans to turn away. The Russian Foreign Ministry described this as a “scandalous interference” in the country’s internal affairs.