More than 1,500 Navalny supporters detained in fresh demonstrations over Putin critic’s arrest

Rallies are being held across the country for the second weekend in a row after Mr Navalny was arrested earlier this month upon his return to Moscow, having spent months in Germany recovering from a poisoning.

More than 1,500 have been detained at protests in Russia in support of Alexei Navalny, a jailed politician and fierce critic of the Kremlin.

The 44-year-old opposition politician accuses Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.

Protesters have rallied in Mr Navalny’s support again on Sunday despite a sweeping crackdown on his allies and the near-certainty of a confrontation with police.

Police have detained more than 1,500 people at demonstrations across Russia, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info, while witnesses told Reuters around 100 people had been detained in Moscow at a rally.

In the far eastern city of Vladivostok, more than 110 people have been detained so far, according to OVD-Info. Police have also prevented protesters from accessing the centre, forcing them to relocate to the waterfront and the frozen waters of the Amur Bay.

In Tomsk, the Siberian city that Mr Navalny visited before suddenly collapsing on a domestic flight last August, demonstrators gathered in front of a concert hall and chanted “Let him go!” and held up Russian flags.

Authorities warned rallies were not authorised and would be broken up, as they were last weekend – when more than 4,000 people were detained, according to OVD-Info, and tens of thousands took to the streets.

Mr Navalny was met by police officers at passport control in mid-January minutes after landing in Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning.

Moments before his arrest, he told reporters: “This is the best day of the last five months.”

The 44-year-old said: “I’m not afraid, because I know I’m right. I’m not afraid of anything.”

Mr Navalny is accused of parole violations which he has claimed are trumped up. A court is due to meet next week to consider handing him a jail term of up to three and a half years.

He has accused Mr Putin of ordering his poisoning, who in turn has denied authorities tried to poison Mr Navalny and said Russian agents would have finished the job if they had wanted him dead.

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