Putin critic Navalny is released after nationwide rallies prompt hundreds of arrests

Putin critic Navalny is released after nationwide rallies prompt hundreds of arrests
Copyright  REUTERS
By Euronews

Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic called for nationwide protests against the Russian leader on Saturday, two days before his inauguration.

Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic has been released after being detained during a rally against the Russian leader on Saturday.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was galvanising a protest against incumbent President Putin, whose second inauguration ceremony will begin on Monday, when he was seized by police in Moscow.

Following his release on Sunday, the 41-year-old said on Twitter: "They wrote up two protocols on me: organizing a rally and disobeying police, but at half past midnight they chose to release me pending trial."

Footage of the lawyer's arrest shows riot officers grabbing his arms and legs before carrying him to a waiting van.

Navalny poses for pictures with supporters during the anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow

According to monitoring group OVD-Info, over 1,600 people from 26 cities across the country had also been detained in connection to the protests.

Navalny rallied support for the nationwide movement on social media, calling for activists to attend and denounce Putin’s autocratic rule under the slogan "He's Not Our Tsar".

The 65-year-old has governed Russia for 18 years, serving six years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 and the rest as President. His second consecutive presidential term — and fourth overall — was secured following a landslide election win in March.

Critics attributed his success to his stranglehold on the media and to election fraud, saying observers had witnessed people being bussed to polling stations by their own employers. While Navalny’s attempt to interrupt Putin’s reign and enter the presidential race was also blocked by the election commission citing his criminal record. The lawyer received a five-year suspended prison sentence for embezzlement and fraud in 2013, a conviction which he claims was based on fabrications made to hinder his political activities.