Russian Opposition Leader Arrested Hours Before Latest Rally

  • Navalny says Kremlin ‘afraid,’ urges backers to attend protest
  • Putin critic stages pre-election meetings in Russian cities

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny called on his supporters to attend a rally in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod after police detained him in Moscow as he prepared to travel to the event.

“I can’t come to today’s meeting because the Kremlin is really afraid of this event we’re planning,” Navalny said Friday in a video message posted on his Twitter account. “Let them be afraid, but I call on you to turn up anyway.”

Alexey Navalny

Photographer: Andrey Borodulin/AFP via Getty Images

Police in Moscow said they arrested Navalny for repeatedly calling for unauthorized rallies, according to state-run Tass news service. In Nizhny Novgorod, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Moscow, police dismantled a stage set up for Navalny’s rally, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

The anti-corruption activist has announced his candidacy for March 2018 presidential elections that would almost certainly pit him against President Vladimir Putin, who’s likely to seek a record fourth term. Officials say Navalny is barred from running because of a fraud conviction that he’s dismissed as politically motivated. Navalny’s drawn thousands of people to a series of campaign rallies in cities across Russia recently, after inspiring the largest anti-government protests for at least five years in March.

Navalny, who almost forced a run-off against a Putin ally in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, came to prominence as a key organizer of mass protests that erupted over alleged ballot-rigging in 2011-2012. The protests were the biggest since Putin came to power almost two decades ago.

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