Russian opposition leader Navalny detained in Moscow

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Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Thursday he had been detained by police in Moscow, less than a month ahead of presidential polls he has been barred from contesting.

The prominent Kremlin critic wrote on Twitter: “I came out of the dentist’s and what do you know — the second operative (police) regiment, ‘you’re detained’.”

He later wrote that he had been taken to a city police station.

Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova told TASS state news agency that he was being taken to a station to sign a police report and then would be taken to court, most likely the same day.

Navalny, who has been banned from standing against President Vladimir Putin in March polls for legal reasons, was detained last month after he appeared at a Moscow protest rally but was released later that day without facing court.

He wrote on his blog at the time that he faced up to 30 days in police cells but was told his court hearing would be held later.

He suggested this was a move by the Kremlin to ensure he would be in prison during the run-up to the election.

Navalny’s campaign chief Leonid Volkov was almost simultaneously detained Thursday at a city airport.

Volkov wrote on Twitter he had been detained by police at Sheremetyevo airport where he was planning to fly to another Russian city.

Navalny was questioned this month by investigators from the powerful Investigative Committee over an allegation that he attacked police during his detention. If charged, he could face a jail term.

The latest detentions came ahead of a march on Sunday in memory of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down three years ago on a bridge close to the Kremlin.

Navalny has recently caused controversy with a viral video report alleging influential Russian deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko enjoyed lavish hospitality from billionaire tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

On Wednesday his anti-corruption foundation released a fresh YouTube video related to the allegations that has already been viewed more than 750,000 times.

Russia’s media watchdog last week blocked Navalny’s website.

Both Deripaska and Prikhodko deny the allegations.

Navalny has faced a string of administrative and criminal charges that he and his supporters see as politically motivated since he became the leading opposition figure campaigning against Putin’s rule at mass rallies in 2011 and 2012.