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The Russian police have arrested no fewer than 1,500 protesters and forcefully broke up rallies around the country on Saturday.
Tens of thousands of protesters demanded the release of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, whose wife was among those detained, Aljazeera reports.
Navalny who was arrested last weekend called on his supporters to protest Saturday.
He was arrested after he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent he says was applied to his underpants by state security agents in August.
The authorities in the country had warned people to stay away from the protests, citing the risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorized event.
The protesters defied the ban and bitter cold and turned out in force.
The OVD-Info protest monitor group said at least 1,614 people – including 300 in the capital, Moscow, and 162 in Saint Petersburg – had been detained across Russia.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered in Moscow in one of the biggest unauthorized rallies for years.
Police were seen detaining and bundling people into nearby vans.
The authorities said just some 4,000 people had shown up.
Navalny’s wife, Yulia, posted on social media that she had been detained at the rally but she was later released.
The OVD-Info protest monitor group said at least 1,614 people – including 300 in the capital, Moscow, and 162 in Saint Petersburg – had been detained across Russia, a number is likely to rise. It reported arrests at rallies in nearly 70 towns and cities.
The 44-year-old Navalny has been detained in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up.
Authorities accused him of violating the terms of a suspended sentence in a 2014 conviction for financial misdeeds, including when he was convalescing in Germany.
Navalny accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering his attempted murder.
But Putin has dismissed the claim, alleging that Navalny is part of a United States-backed dirty tricks campaign to discredit him.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK