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Russian activist Alexei Navalny arrested ahead of opposition rally

By
Darryl Coote
Russian activist Alexei Navalny attends a rally to support opposition candidates in the Moscow City Duma elections, in downtown Moscow, Russia, on July 20. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Russian activist Alexei Navalny attends a rally to support opposition candidates in the Moscow City Duma elections, in downtown Moscow, Russia, on July 20. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

July 24 (UPI) -- Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said he was arrested Wednesday, just days before he was set to lead a large anti-government protest.

Navalny, 43, planned the protest in Moscow for Saturday to oppose a government decision to prohibit opposition candidates from running for election in the 45-seat Moscow City Duma Parliament. The protest was to follow three weeks of demonstrations, the largest on July 20 that was attended by some 20,000 people, Bloomberg reported.

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In a short video on his Instagram account, Navalny said he was arrested by officers as he left his Moscow apartment early Wednesday for a run. His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said via Twitter he has been charged with luring people to attend an unsanctioned event and faces up to 30 days in jail.

Yarmysh said Navalny has filed a motion to dismiss the charges and petitioned to delay punishment so he can attend the protest Saturday.

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"I went out to run and buy flowers for my wife," Navalny said, adding that a bus was waiting outside. "Now, I'm sitting in my shorts like a fool at the police station."

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Moscow's Election Commission requires independent candidates to collect thousands of signatures to appear on September's ballot, but it's disqualified some of them due to what it said are invalid signatures.

Yarmysh said police have also detained Oleg Stepanov, the coordinator of Navalny's Moscow headquarters.

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Navalny has been arrested several times, including last month when he was detained with more than 400 others at an unauthorized march. He was released from jail on July 11 after serving a 10-day sentence in connection to an unsanctioned protest.

Navalny's arrest followed police searches of other opposition candidates Dmitry Gudkov, Ivan Zhdanov and Aleksandr Solovyov.

"About 10 policemen came to search our home," Gudkov's wife, Valeriya, said. "The police are looking for materials on the upcoming [rally Saturday]."

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