Russian opposition leader Navalny detained on release from prison

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Russian police officers detain opposition leader Alexei Navalny outside the detention centre in Moscow on September 24, 2018. Alexei Navalny was detained on September 24, 2018 upon his release from prison after serving a 30 day sentence for an unauthorised protest, his spokesman said. / AFP PHOTO / Vasily MAXIMOV

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained Monday on his release from prison after serving a 30-day sentence for an unauthorised protest.

“Alexei Navalny was detained outside the detention centre,” his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on Twitter, adding that the politician was taken to a central Moscow police station.

Yarmysh said Navalny was accused of violating a different protest law and faces up to 20 days in prison. He is due to appear in court later on Monday, she said.

Navalny was in jail for a month for a protest he organised on January 28, violating Russia’s strict laws which forbid any public event without city hall’s authorisation.

He accused authorities of sending him to prison to keep him from holding a protest on September 9 against the government’s retirement age hike that coincided with local elections.

Thousands of Russians across the country turned up to the protest despite his arrest and 150 people were arrested nationwide.

The opposition politician has criticised the pension reform that has led to a rare outburst of public anger in Russia.

Writing on Twitter, his associate Lyubov Sobol wrote that he was detained again “because authorities are now weaker than ever.”

“The overwhelming majority of people are against raising the retirement age and United Russia was defeated in gubernatorial elections in key regions,” she wrote. “They are scared, panicking and taking revenge.”

Election blows
The Kremlin-backed plan to raise the state pension age to 65 for men has led to a number of protests and seen President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings take a major hit.

About 3,000 people demonstrated in Moscow on Saturday against the reform in a protest organised by the Communist Party that was approved by authorities.

The pension age hike has also led to rare election blows for the Kremlin. This weekend Russia’s ruling party suffered defeats when its gubernatorial candidates failed to secure victories in two regions.

A second round of gubernatorial elections was held in two key regions on Sunday, after the pro-Kremlin United Russia party saw its strongest decline in a decade during a first round on September 9.

Ruling party candidates were defeated by populists from the LDPR party in the Vladimir region, 190 kilometres (120 miles) east of Moscow, and the far eastern Khabarovsk region.

Last week the Kremlin also suffered setbacks in the Primorsky Krai and Khakhasia regions, where its candidates failed to win in the first round.

The elections in Primorsky Krai, also in the Far East, were cancelled following protests over vote-rigging and will be held at an unspecified time. Khakasia is yet to hold a runoff vote.

Navalny has called some of the biggest protests in Russia in recent years. His anti-corruption rhetoric is especially popular among younger people who follow his online channels and blogs.

He was barred from taking part in Russia’s presidential election in March and served a month in prison in June after organising demonstrations ahead of Putin’s fourth inauguration in May.

The Yale-educated lawyer has faced a string of charges since he became the leading opposition figure in Russia, campaigning against Putin’s rule at mass demonstrations in 2011 and 2012.