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Massive Protests Erupt Across Russia Against Putin Demanding Release Of Kremlin Critic Navalny

Thousands of Russians, braving the cold, joined protests in cities and towns across the country demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in Russia Saturday were detained by Russian riot police, as thousands of Russians joined protests in cities and towns across the country demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

As protesters gathered defying the cold and a ban by authorities, video footages showed riot police chasing down protesters in Vladivostok. In Khabarovsk, braving temperatures of about -14C (7F), the demonstrators chanted “Shame!” and “Bandits!”

In the Siberian city of Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world and where the temperature was -52C on Saturday, the police were seen in a video grabbing a protester by his arms and legs and dragging him into a van.

Human rights monitoring group OVD-Info said that 238 people, including 56 in Novosibirsk, had been arrested so far at the rallies.

Riot police in Khabarovsk wrestled protesters to the ground and dragged them to waiting police trucks, according to videos posted online from the city. Khabarovsk police had beaten some protesters, OVD-Info reported citing testimony from friends of those detained. Dozens of riot police in Vladivostok swept in and dispersed protesters.

Yuri Dud, popular Russian video blogger having  8.6 million followers on his youtube channel,  participated in the Vladivostok protest in support of Navalny, underscoring the widespread unease in Russia about the regime’s authoritarian turn. Ilya Varlamov, another popular blogger, was detained in Moscow. Journalists from independent media outlets Mediazona and Meduza were arrested in St Petersburg, Washington Post reported.

The protests are followed by  a sweeping national crackdown in which police detained opposition activists and courts locked up Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, and another team member, Georgy Alburov, co-author of a bombshell viral YouTube video “Putin’s Palace — History of the World’s Largest Bribe.” This video alleging massive corruption in the construction of a vast Black Sea palace for President Vladimir Putin has over 65 million views in just three days. The Kremlin has denied any relationship between Putin and the palace.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, hours before protests erupted released a call on Russians to defy fear and take to the streets to protest “against lies, thieves and lawlessness.

“We are supported by the majority now, you can be sure of that. Do not be afraid of anything. We’re right. Russia will definitely be free!” the foundation had tweeted.

Navalny’s regional headquarters in Khabarovsk declared on Twitter: “Grandpa in his bunker has lost the people of the Far East finally and irrevocably!”

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