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Russian opposition figure detained amid protests

13 June 2017

Prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny was on Monday arrested at his home ahead of a series of anti-corruption demonstrations that were scheduled to take place across the country, the media reported.

The center of the Moscow protest is at Pushkin Square - and while NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says the crowd there is huge, she adds that it's also hard to ascertain how many people are there for Navalny's cause, and how many for the national holiday.

An Associated Press reporter saw about 50 protesters seized by police in the gathering at Mars Field.

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"Alexei was detained at the entrance of the house", his wife, Julia Bulk, wrote on Navalny's Twitter feed.

Although city authorities had agreed to a location for the Moscow protest, Navalny called for it to be moved to Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow's main thoroughfares. But Monday's protests could demonstrate that it has significant support throughout the vast country. He said contractors hired to build a stage at the agreed-upon venue could not do their work after apparently coming under official pressure.

Moscow's prosecutor's office said: "We are warning that any attempts to hold an unsanctioned event in Moscow will be a direct violation of the law" and that authorities would take all necessary measures to prevent provocations threatening public security.

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She adds that while the mood in the square had seemed peaceful earlier Monday, "the situation is changing very quickly", with "images streaming in of police and protesters pushing toward one another", as bystanders struggle to get out of the way.

The Kremlin has long sought to cast the opposition as a phenomenon of a privileged, Westernized urban elite out of touch with people in Russia's far-flung regions. He focuses on corruption issues and has attracted a wide following through savvy use of internet video. Those protests-spurred by Navalny's charges that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had enriched himself with $1 billion worth of mansions, yachts, and vineyards, reports the Washington Post-were the largest in roughly five years. He was jailed for 15 days after the March protests.

Mr Navalny is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Mr Putin in next year's election, but polls suggest he has little chance of being successful because of the president's high ratings.

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In April, the opposition leader suffered a chemical burn to his eye after a green liquid was thrown at his face - robbing him of some of his sight.

Russian opposition figure detained amid protests