Moscow, SAEDNEWS, Jan. 23: More than 200 protesters have been arrested in Russia’s Far East and Siberia on Saturday as people defying bitter cold and a ban by authorities staged nationwide rallies to demand the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.
Video footage from Vladivostok showed riot police chasing a group of protesters down the street, while demonstrators in Khabarovsk, braving temperatures of about -14C (7F), chanted “Shame!” and “Bandits!”
Police in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world and where the temperature was -52C on Saturday, grabbed a protester by his arms and legs and dragged him into a van, video footage from the scene showed.
The OVD-Info monitoring group said that 238 people, including 56 in Novosibirsk, had been arrested so far at the rallies.
In Moscow, police put up barricades around Pushkinskaya Square as workers were engaged in re-tiling it, an apparent attempt to thwart a demonstration that was scheduled to start at 11:00 GMT.
Police also arrested a few people gathered on the square before the rally, including a lone picketer.
Navalny, an ex-lawyer who has accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, could face years in jail over legal cases that he calls trumped up. Putin has denied involvement.
Navalny’s supporters are hoping they can produce a show of anti-Kremlin street support despite winter conditions and the coronavirus pandemic to pressure the authorities into freeing him.
Navalny faces a years-long prison term. 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.
After his arrest, his team released an investigation into a lavish Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin, a claim the Kremlin denied.
The two-hour video report has been viewed more than 64 million times since its release on Tuesday, becoming the Kremlin critic’s most-watched YouTube investigation.
Navalny’s arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release (Source: AlJazeera).