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Putin opponent Alexei Navalny arrested during Moscow protests

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been arrested in Moscow on a day of nationwide protests against President Vladimir Putin.

Hundreds of the 41-year-old’s supporters have gathered in the capital to rally against Mr Putin’s regime, calling on voters to boycott what they believe will be a rigged presidential election on 18 March.

Mr Navalny, who has been barred from running in the election and whose office was raided by police on Sunday morning, urged his backers to continue to demonstrate despite being detained.

He said on Twitter: “This doesn’t mean anything… you didn’t come out for me, but for your future.”

Alexei Navalny claims the corruption conviction against him is politically motivated
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Mr Navalny is barred from Russia’s presidential election in March

The outspoken politician could be charged with a public order violation, which may see him jailed for 20 days.

Reporting from Moscow’s Pushkin Square, Sky News’ Diplomatic Editor Dominic Waghorn said: “There’s a lot of anger, a lot of frustration.

“People are telling us Putin’s a thief, a gangster, that he needs to go to court. One person told us he’s not doing anything for the country. They have had enough of him.

“There is a lack of direction and a lack of leadership, largely because the leaders have all been arrested on their way, but there is a lot of anger.

“It’s worth noting that most Russians will not see any of this. The media here is state controlled so the only way to see this is by seeking out Alexei Navalny’s YouTube channel.”

:: There’s more at stake in Russia’s election than Putin’s pride

Protesters encounter riot police in Moscow
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Protesters encounter riot police in Moscow

Mr Navalny’s YouTube channel broadcast footage of police arriving in his office on Sunday morning, which authorities said was in response to a “bomb threat”.

One anchor, Dmitri Nizovtsev, was detained, along with Mr Navalny’s Moscow co-ordinator Nicolai Lyaskin.

Freezing weather conditions are believed to have had an impact on the turnout in Moscow, where there are thought to be somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters.

Supporters of Navalny attend a rally for a boycott of the presidential election in the far eastern city of Vladivostok
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Supporters of Navalny attend a rally in Vladivostok

Demonstrations are also taking place in other cities, including Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok.

One protester said: “They took these elections away from us, they took away our votes. Our candidate was not allowed to run.”

The OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests, has reported scores of arrests at anti-Putin demonstrations in Murmansk, Ufa and Kemerovo.

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