Russian police detain Putin critic
Navalny ahead of Moscow protest
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[June 12, 2017]
By Jack Stubbs and Gleb Stolyarov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained
opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday as he tried to leave his home
ahead of a planned anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow, his wife said, but
she called for the demonstration to go ahead all the same.
Navalny, who is mounting a long-shot bit to unseat Putin in a
presidential election next year, had called for mass protests in Moscow
and other cities against what he says is a corrupt system of rule
overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Alexei was detained in the entrance hall of our building," his wife,
Yulia, wrote on social media. "He asked me to tell you that the plans
(for the protest) are unchanged."
Reuters witnesses saw a police car leaving Navalny's apartment compound
at high speed, followed a few minutes later by a minibus carrying around
Electricity in his office was cut at around the same time as he was
detained, briefly bringing down a live feed of nationwide protests,
Navalny's spokeswoman said.
Around the venue for the planned protest, on Tverskaya Street in central
Moscow, hundreds of riot police and military conscripts were waiting.
Authorities have said the protest is illegal.
Reuters witnesses saw police detain a small number of protesters as they
exited a metro station near the venue.
The scale of the protests will show if Navalny can build on the success
of a similar event in March, in which thousands took to the streets
Those protests were the largest since a wave of anti-Kremlin
demonstrations in 2012 and resulted in over 1,000 arrests, putting rare
domestic pressure on Putin, who is expected to run for and win
re-election next year.
Authorities in Moscow had authorized a venue for the protest away from
the city center.
But Navalny said late on Sunday that the authorities had pressured firms
into refusing to supply him and his allies with sound and video
equipment, a move he said was designed to humiliate protesters.
For that reason, he said he was unilaterally switching the venue to
Tverskaya Street, Moscow's main avenue near the Kremlin. The General
Prosecutor's Office warned that a protest there would be illegal and
police would be forced to take "all necessary measures" to prevent
A legal "caution" was being readied for Navalny, it said. Kremlin
spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TV Rain, before Navalny was detained, that
it was vital to avoid what he called "provocations."
The area of Tsverskaya Street near where Navalny's supporters were
planning to hold their protest was hosting an officially-organized
historical festival, with actors re-enacting periods of Russian history
with props such as World War Two jeeps and artillery guns.
[to top of second column]
Russian leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny reacts during a
break in a hearing in the slander lawsuit filed against him by
Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, in a court in Moscow, Russia
May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
Officials had set up barriers along Tverskaya Street, and were
admitting members of the public only once they had passed through
airport-style metal detectors. There were long queues of people
waiting to gain access.
Reuters reporters saw a heavy police presence on and around the
avenue with bus loads of riot police parked nearby and side roads
NAVALNY ELECTION HOPES
For now, polls suggest Navalny has scant chance of unseating Putin,
who enjoys high ratings. It is unclear too if the Kremlin will even
let Navalny run for the presidency.
But the 41-year-old lawyer turned political street campaigner hopes
anger over corruption may boost his support.
A video he made accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin
ally, of living far beyond his means has garnered over 22 million
online views to date.
Medvedev said Navalny's allegations were politically motivated
"nonsense" and called him a charlatan.
Navalny, who had a green liquid thrown in his face in April, robbing
him of some of his sight, said hundreds of people had attended
demonstrations in Russia's Far East on Monday morning.
The Moscow protest is due to run from 1100 to 1400 GMT (10.00 a.m.
"I want changes," wrote Navalny in a blog post last week. "I want to
live in a modern democratic state and I want our taxes to be
converted into roads, schools and hospitals, not into yachts,
palaces and vineyards."
(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe, Jack Stubbs, Maria
Tsvetkova, Sveta Reiter, Dmitry Solovyov, Gleb Stolyarov, Anton
Zverev in Moscow and Natasha Shurmina in Ekaterinburg; Writing by
Andrew Osborn; Editing by David Evans and Richard Balmforth)
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