Russia: Alexei Navalny arrested again

nobalmi ALEXI NAVALNI, Russia

Critics of President Putin took to the streets today ahead of his inauguration for a fourth term in the Russian presidency, seeking to express their opposition to the country's authoritarian tsarist-style government, they say.

Putin was re-elected in March, taking over the country for another six years, until 2024, making him the longest-serving leader in power after Soviet President Joseph Stalin, who ruled for about 30 years.

"If you do not think he is our tsar, take to the streets of your cities," said opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was arrested during a rally in Moscow today. "We will force the authorities, staffed by swindlers and thieves, to take into account the millions of citizens who did not vote for Putin."

Navalny, who has been repeatedly arrested and jailed for similar demonstrations in the past, called on citizens to take to the streets in more than 90 cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the protests began at 1100 GMT.

Navalny activists posted photos on social media with hundreds of protesters protesting in the Russian Far East and Siberia, and human rights group OVD Info, which records the arrests, said it had information that police had arrested about 20 people. across the country.

Putin, 65, has been in power, either as prime minister or in the presidency, since 2000.

Supported by state television and the ruling party and with an acceptance rate of around 80%, he is considered by his followers to be a leader who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow's global influence by intervening in Syria and Ukraine.


Authorities considered most of the demonstrations illegal on the grounds that their time and place had not been agreed in advance. Police have previously dissolve similar demonstrations, sometimes violently, arresting hundreds of people.

Putin called Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election, a troublemaker, accusing him of seeking to wreak havoc on behalf of the United States, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of Putin, called Navalny a political charlatan.

Putin is expected to be sworn in on Monday in a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin.

With almost 77% of the vote and more than 56 million votes, his election in March was the most impressive and triumphant post-Soviet leader has achieved, something he and his allies say give him an unequivocal mandate to rule.

However, European observers say there was no real choice in the election and speak of pressure on critics. Opponents of Putin, such as Navalny, have accused the president of leading a corrupt authoritarian regime and illegally annexing Ukrainian Crimea in 2014, a move that has pushed Moscow into international isolation.