MOSCOW: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been freed after a brief spell in police detention in Moscow as thousands rallied against a March election expected to extend Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin term, reports AFP.
“I’m free,” Navalny said on Twitter late Sunday, adding: “Today has been an important day... Thanks to all those who were not afraid to fight for their rights.”
Heeding a call by Putin’s bete noire, thousands braved freezing temperatures to stage rallies in dozens of cities to protest upcoming “pseudo-elections,” as Navalny and his supporters refer to them.
In Moscow, Navalny chanted “Swindlers and thieves” at a rally in the city centre Sunday before several police officers pounced on the 41-year-old opposition politician, knocking him to the ground and dragging him on to a bus.
Authorities said earlier Navalny would be charged with organising an unpermitted protest, adding he had been taken to a police station.
The opposition leader urged Muscovites not to give up.
“You are not rallying for me, but for yourselves and your future,” he tweeted.
About 4,000 people turned up for the unsanctioned rally in Moscow, with many chanting “Down with the czar” and brandishing placards saying “Voters’ strike.”
Authorities beefed up security, dispatching police vans and passenger buses to the city centre, but police largely refrained from arresting protesters..