MOSCOW - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained by police as he left his Moscow home Friday to attend a pre-election rally in a provincial town.
Russia holds a presidential election in March that incumbent Vladimir Putin is widely expected to contest. Navalny hopes to run despite Russia’s central election commission declaring him ineligible because of a suspended prison sentence that he says was politically motivated.
Navalny said on social media Friday that police had detained him in the lobby of his apartment block and told him they wanted to interview him at a police station.
The press service of Moscow’s interior ministry was cited by the TASS news agency as saying Navalny had been detained because of his “repeated calls to take part in unsanctioned public events.”
The authorities say opposition protests must be pre-approved by them, but Navalny has in the past said that the Russian constitution enshrines the right to freely hold such events.
On Friday, he denied the police’s latest allegations, writing on social media “I’ve never done that.”
Navalny had been scheduled to address a pre-election rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod later Friday, part of a series of regional events he hoped would help him build support for his presidential run.