Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested after organizing fair election protests

Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested after organizing fair election protests

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained after joining a protest in Moscow following an earlier police raid on his offices Sunday.

About 200 protesters gathered in Vladivostok, on Russia's Pacific coast, alleging that the election would be skewed in Putin's favour.

He says the upcoming election will be little more than a coronation of Putin who is expected to win a fourth presidential term, becoming the longest-serving Russian leader since Stalin.

After authorities refused to register his candidacy in the election, Navalny has called on supporters to boycott the vote.

Putin has said the presidential election will be fair, and that Navalny, lacking real popular support, is irresponsibly trying to foment social anger which could tip Russian Federation back into instability. Winning a new term in March would extend his presidency until at least 2024.

Despite Mr Navalny's show of defiance, polls show Vladimir Putin is on course for a comfortable re-election which would keep him in office for another six years.

In Moscow, where the country's largest protests were expected, police cut through the doors to the headquarters of Navalny's Fund to Fight Corruption using an angular saw.

About 90 people were detained in cities in eastern and central Russian Federation by 2 p.m. Sunday in Moscow, according to OVD-Info, a monitoring group. Some chanted, "Putin is a thief", as police ordered them to return home. "Come to Tverskaya. You're not coming out for me, but for yourself and your future", he wrote on Twitter moments afterward.

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One group of protesters walked several kilometres and reached the government headquarters as police watched on. Police searched Navalny's campaign offices in several cities ahead of the protests. Police claimed they had received reports of a bomb threat from the site, which was being used by supporters to coordinate the protests and anchor a live stream of updates on YouTube from demonstrations across the country.

Aside from Moscow and St Petersburg, sizeable gatherings were also reported on Sunday in the Far East and Siberia, including one in remote Yakutsk where the temperature reportedly was minus -45C.

Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption activist, is gaining name recognition, if not widespread support from Russia's public.

Moscow Police said Navalny was taken to a police station for arraignment and to be charged for illegally organizing a protest, according to CNN. "We've already endured this for 18 years", Mr Navalny said in a video message ahead of the protests.

"Putin has been in power for 18 years now", he said. When he went to Youtube last month to call for Sunday's rallies, the video was temporarily blocked on account of featuring "improper hashtags", according to Navalny's telling of the incident.

The softer approach suggested authorities have adapted their tactics to Navalny, avoiding the mass arrests that had made global headlines a year ago and instead focusing on detaining the protests' organizers. Putin ignored another question about whether Navalny was producing a film about the Russian president.

During his annual televised, live call-in show in June, Putin chose not to say Navalny's name when asked about his political opponent.