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Thousands March in Pro-Opposition Rallies Across Russia


Protesters in Moscow's Pushkin Square. Navalny's campaign has connected with younger Russians in particular through an effective use of social media. (Photo: Charles Maynes for VOA)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been released from police detention in Moscow after thousands of pro-opposition marchers rallied against a March election expected to extend President Vladimir Putin's term in Kremlin.

"I'm free," Navalny tweeted late Sunday, adding: "Today has been an important day. We have shown that not all Russia is ready to accept the monarchy. . . Thanks to all those who were not afraid to fight for their rights."

Police arrested Navalny while he was on his way to a rally in central Moscow. He shouted "swindlers and thieves" before police jumped on him and threw him into a bus.

A still image taken from a video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny being detained by Interior Ministry members during a rally for a boycott of a March 18 presidential election in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 28, 2018.
A still image taken from a video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny being detained by Interior Ministry members during a rally for a boycott of a March 18 presidential election in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 28, 2018.

Earlier, police raided his Moscow headquarters, breaking into the office with a power saw. They claim someone had reported a bomb threat.

Navalny later said on Twitter that he was released pending hearings.

He is urging Russians to boycott the March presidential election, in which Vladimir Putin is just about assured to win a fourth term.Navalny is calling it a "pseudo-election." He is barred from running because of a suspended prison sentence for embezzlement – a charge he and his followers say was contrived and political.

A protester in Moscow's Pushkin Square makes a peace offering to police. Independent monitoring groups put arrests at 340 nationwide. (Photo: Charles Maynes for VOA)
A protester in Moscow's Pushkin Square makes a peace offering to police. Independent monitoring groups put arrests at 340 nationwide. (Photo: Charles Maynes for VOA)

Putin has been Russian president or prime minister since the last day of 1999. Many of the young marchers who have known no other leader say they are sick of living in what one of them calls a "quagmire."

"As long as I've been alive, Putin has always been in. I'm tired of nothing being changed." a 19 year-old marcher in St. Petersburg said.

"They took these elections away from us, they took away our votes. Our candidate was not allowed to run," an opposition member in Vladivostok complained.

Protesters in Moscow's Pushkin Square. Navalny called for a "voters strike" in over 100 cities across the country. (Photo: Charles Maynes for VOA)
Protesters in Moscow's Pushkin Square. Navalny called for a "voters strike" in over 100 cities across the country. (Photo: Charles Maynes for VOA)

Others waved signs denouncing Putin as a "thief" and a "czar. Some also threw snowballs at a government building in Moscow. Police were restrained, but an independent monitor says more than 250 people were arrested across the country Sunday.

Navalny made his name by using social media to report on what he says is corruption by top Russian leaders.

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