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Russian opposition leader Navalny's wife among 3,000 detained

By Allen Cone
Protesters participate in an unauthorized protest in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | Protesters participate in an unauthorized protest in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday. Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- At least 3,000 people, including the wife of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, were detained Sunday at rallies throughout Russia in cold weather protesting the detention of her husband.

Protests took place in at least 120 cities across the nation. Demonstrations also took place last weekend.

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In Moscow, riot police and national guard troops closed central metro stations and blocked off streets as thousands chanted "Putin is a thief" in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and "freedom," and marched toward Matrosskaya Tishina jail where Navalny is being held before a parole hearing Tuesday. He is facing prison for years on whether his suspended sentence on fraud charges in a 2014 embezzlement case should become a jail term.

"Yulia Navalnaya was detained by the police during a peaceful walk in Moscow," Vyacheslav Gimadi, head of the legal department of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, posted on Twitter. "The defense attorney was not allowed to see her, [police officers] did not introduce themselves, did not show any IDs, did not provide any reason for the detention."

After returning to Russia following a suspected FSB poisoning on Jan. 17, Navalny was arrested.

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"Moscow looks like a fortress today," Maria Lazareva, a protester was trapped between two lines of riot police just off of Komsomolskaya Square, told The Guardian. "They can stop us when there are not enough of us but as more come it's going to be impossible to keep us penned in."

In St Petersburg, police shut Nevsky Prospekt, the city's main avenue, to prevent protesters from gathering there.

Police had detained at least 3,013 people in 81 cities as of 4:24 p.m., according to the OVD-Info protest monitoring website.

The Biden administration condemned the crackdown on protests, which is a contrast from the Trump administration. "The US condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Twitter. "We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksey Navalny."

Russian citizens were warned not to participate in the protests.

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia calls on citizens to refrain from participating in unauthorized protests," the ministry said in an Instagram post.

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To obtain permission to protest, Russian federal law requires organizers to file an appeal with local authorities at least 10 days in advance.

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