Putin Critic Navalny Detained After Defying Police With Protest Call

Thousands of Russians, many very young, chanted "Russia without Putin!" in the streets of dozens of cities during Monday's protests.

Medvedev dismissed Navalny's allegations as politically motivated "nonsense" and called the opposition politician a muck-raking charlatan.

The enrichment of government officials and those close to them has been the No. 1 issue of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and his new YouTube channel, which bypasses state media to get out his message.

Putin is up for re-election in 2018.

It is now thought that more than a 1,000 people have been arrested around the country - an act of collective defiance that has largely been ignored by the Russian media, which is nearly completely controlled by the government. "People are not afraid".

Police in the capital have put on gas masks and witnesses say pepper spray has been used against some protesters. The Interior Ministry said 500 people were detained in St Petersburg. "Alexei has been detained in the stairwell". Reuters witnesses saw a police vehicle leaving Navalny's apartment compound at high speed, followed a few minutes later by a minibus carrying about 10 policemen.

Electricity in his office was cut at around the same time as he was detained, briefly bringing down a live feed of the protests, Navalny's spokeswoman said.

Tverskaya, known in Soviet times as Gorky Street, was closed off to traffic on Monday for an extensive commemoration of the national holiday Russia Day, including people dressed in historical Russian costumes.

An opposition organizer for Navalny in Vladivostok on the Pacific coast was detained and fined for illegally organizing a rally, according to state news service RIA Novosti, which cited a regional lawmaker.

Roman, a 19-year-old student, said Navalny's campaign against official corruption had struck a chord. "There is so much evidence that our officials are stealing with impunity". He's been either the president or prime minister of Russian Federation since 1999. Mr Medvedev denies the claims. "I consider that to be way below the subsistence level, and that's why I'm here", she said.

Turnout was hard to calculate as ordinary people mingled with those protesting, but thousands filled the Tverskaya Street area in Moscow, many waving Russian flags and banners.

Hundreds were arrested, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was seized outside his Moscow home while on his way to an unapproved rally.

As media outlets and several photo agencies in Russian Federation noted, those calls appeared to have been heard.

The scale and geographical reach 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 to call for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, to quit. He was later sentenced to 30 days in jail. Protests unfolded Monday in more than 100 cities, even in some where they had been banned outright. "We are cancelling the rally on Sakharov Avenue and moving it to Tverskaya Street", a main thoroughfare to the Kremlin, he said. Authorities have said the protest is illegal. Large signs celebrating Russia's unspoiled nature and ethnic diversity were barely looked at by passersby as protesters sought refuge behind them from riot police.

However, opinion polls suggest he would stand little chance of beating Mr Putin, who continues to enjoy favourable ratings. It remains unclear too whether the Kremlin will let Navalny run for the presidency.

Monday's protests were a follow up to the March 26 rallies in which tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities and towns across Russian Federation.

Navalny, 41, has been mobilizing support on social networks in the hope the rallies will rattle the Kremlin, as those held earlier this year did.

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