Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who aims to unseat Vladimir Putin in presidential elections next year, was detained by police ahead of a rally yesterday and could face up to a month in jail.
In the latest attempt to thwart the Kremlin critic’s campaign, police held Navalny for hours after he left his apartment having intended to travel to the rally in the provincial city of Nizhny Novgorod.
The event was due to start at 6pm (1500 GMT) but Moscow police said Navalny was detained “over multiple calls to participate in an unauthorised public event”.
The 41-year-old stands accused of repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings – punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
One of his lawyers, Olga Mikhailova, told AFP that Navalny had been kept all day at the police station without a written statement outlining reasons for detention.
He was eventually released.
Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader, linked his detention with another – bigger – rally scheduled in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city and Putin’s hometown, on October 7, the president’s birthday.
Navalny has said he wants to stand for president next March, but the authorities have said he is not eligible because he is serving a suspended sentence for fraud.
Putin, who has led Russia since 1999, is widely expected to seek and win another six-year term.
After Navalny declared his bid he was hit by a new wave of legal obstacles and attacks and even had to travel to Spain for surgery after one assault left him almost blind in one eye.
Navalny has been briefly imprisoned before.
He was detained prior to arriving at his last two rallies in Moscow on March 26 and June 12, both of which were not authorised.
He served sentences of 15 days and 25 days for organising rallies.
Navalny leaves the police station in Moscow last night. He will face a court hearing in Moscow on October 2 over repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings.