Putin critic Alexei Navalny arrested after call for election boycott

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested on Sunday shortly after joining one of several rallies held in Russian cities on Sunday.

Hundreds of his supporters in Moscow held a nationwide day of protest, calling on voters to boycott what they said would be a rigged presidential election on March 18.

Navalny objects to Russia’s Central Election Commission’s decision to bar him from taking part in the election, which is expected to give President Vladimir Putin a fourth term in office, keeping him in the Kremlin until 2024.

Putin rival arrested in Moscow2:58

Earlier this week, the Russian interior ministry warned it would harshly suppress any violations of the law at pre-election opposition protests.

CBC’s Chris Brown said there were police vehicles, officers in riot gear and military personnel near the scene of a protest in Moscow. He was in the middle of a growing crowd of several hundred protesters.

“This actually isn’t supposed to be a protest. There is no permit and in Russia you need to have a permit to hold a political demonstration like this,” he said.

Navalny called on supporters to continue the demonstrations despite his arrest.

“They have detained me. This doesn’t mean anything … you didn’t come out for me, but for your future,” the anti-corruption activist said on Twitter.

A video of police dragging Navalny into a patrol wagon, feet first, a few hundred metres from the Kremlin, was also posted on his Twitter feed.

Protests ranging from a few dozen to several hundred people were reported throughout the country.

Earlier on Sunday, police forced their way into Navalny’s campaign headquarters using power tools, citing reports of a 
bomb threat, an online feed run by Navalny’s supporters showed.

Polls show the incumbent president is on track to easily win the March 18 vote. Though Navalny says he knows Putin will be re-elected, his boycott campaign is aimed at lowering voter turnout to try to take the shine off a Putin win.

The Kremlin says the election will be fair. They say Navalny and his supporters have minimal support and are irresponsibly trying to foment social anger which could lead to turmoil. 

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A man holds flowers near police officers during Sunday’s rally in Moscow. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

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