Jan. 23 (UPI) — Tens of thousands protested Saturday across Russia in response to opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and arrest.
The demonstrators spread out from the eastern regions of Russia, across the nation, included thousands gathered in central Moscow to march to the Kremlin. Riot police detained scores of them, The New York Times reported.
Navalny, a 44-year-old opposition leader, anticorruption activist and blogger, was detained upon landing in Moscow on Sunday after recovering from poisoning from a military-grade nerve agent in Siberia in August that left him in a coma. Western officials have described the poisoning as an assassination attempt, according to The New York Times.
On Monday, a Russian court ordered that Navalny be detained for one month.
Russian authorities have said the protests are not authorized and prosecutors said the rallies were illegal.
Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, was arrested at a rally in Moscow and posted a photo of herself in a police van on Instagram.
Police officers rushed into the crowd at one point swinging batons and some in the crowd in Moscow responded by hurling what appeared to be plastic bottles at police, according to The New York Times.
More than 1,000 people have been detained nationwide, according to OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project that tracks and publicizes arrests and provides legal assistance to victims of political persecution.
Russian Investigative Committee Spokesperson Yulia Ivanova told Tass that detectives started an inquiry into violence against riot police at the unauthorized rallies in downtown Moscow.
Video reports showed police officers scuffling with protesters in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.
On the eve of Saturday’s rallies, Russian authorities arrested and fined multiple allies and associates of Nalvany, who has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny said a lavish estate on the Black Sea coast was built for Putin using $1.3 billion in taxpayer money in a video released Tuesday by his investigative team while he remained behind bars in COVID-19 isolation.
On Friday, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that he had spoken with Putin to demand Navalny’s immediate release and “transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him.”