MOSCOW: More than 1,000 supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny rallied in rainy Moscow on President Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday, calling for the Russian strongman to retire.
The rally on Pushkin Square—along with protests in dozens of other cities—was called by Navalny, a 41-year-old anti-corruption campaigner, who has declared his intention to run in a presidential election next March to unseat Putin.
More than 1,000 people turned out despite the bad weather, AFP reporters said, while police put the number at 700 people including journalists.
Smaller rallies and pickets took place in other cities across Russia.
Eighty people were detained in 21 cities including the exclave of Kaliningrad, the Black Sea resort of Sochi and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the Far East, said OVD-Info, a group that monitors politically-motivated arrests.
In Moscow, the crowd of mostly young protesters chanted “Happy birthday” and “Russia without Putin” and many held copies of the constitution and flags amid honks of support from passing cars.
The demonstrators gathered in the centre of the city, defying a ban on rallies in the heart of Moscow.
Hundreds of policemen, some in riot gear and with dogs, were out on the streets to prevent people from going to Red Square.
Navalny was arrested late last month as he was planning to travel to a rally in a provincial city, part of his long-shot bid for the presidency.
A court on Monday sentenced him to 20 days in jail on charges of repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings..