Despite tough crackdown, the allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny are planning new protests against the government

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The police arrested 44-year-old Navalny on January 17th at a Moscow airport. (FILE)

Moscow, Russia:

The allies of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny prepared for a new round of anti-government demonstrations on Sunday, although the authorities put pressure on the opposition with arrests and criminal investigations.

Navalny aides have called for the new nationwide rallies to demand the opposition leader’s release from prison where he is awaiting the trial, which is due to begin on February 2nd.

This week, several Navalny employees, including lawyer Lyubov Sobol and his brother Oleg, were placed under house arrest until the end of March, pending charges of violating coronavirus restrictions by asking people to join in protests.

The Russian authorities have issued several warnings about participating in the upcoming unauthorized rallies and threatened criminal charges against demonstrators.

In an unprecedented move, police in the capital Moscow announced the closure of seven metro stations and said the movement of pedestrians in the city center was limited.

Moscow authorities also said that some centrally located restaurants and shops are closing and that overground transportation will be diverted.

Police detained 44-year-old Navalny at a Moscow airport on January 17 when he arrived from Germany, where he had recovered from exposure to a Soviet-designed neurotoxin.

A provisional court at a police station ordered the anti-graft activist to be detained pending trial for violating a 2014 suspended sentence.

The Moscow rally on Sunday is due to take place in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, Russia’s largest security agency, which, according to Navalny, carried out the near-fatal poisoning attack on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

– ‘Wake her up’ –

“The majority are on our side. Let’s wake them up,” Navalny said on Thursday in a message from Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina, a maximum security prison.

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in over 100 cities across the country last Saturday to protest Putin’s 20-year rule.

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More than 4,000 demonstrators were arrested while the authorities opened a series of criminal investigations.

The authorities are also targeting online platforms, demanding that they delete posts calling for rallies or fines.

The country’s media watchdog said Friday it had urged representatives from several social networks, including Facebook and TikTok, for non-compliance.

The Russian authorities have started investigations against Navalny’s employees in Russia and abroad.

The committee of inquiry announced on Friday that Leonid Volkov, head of the Navalny regional network and based in Lithuania, was wanted for inviting minors to join unauthorized rallies.

On Saturday, investigators launched a fraud investigation into Ukraine-based businessman Alexander Khomenko, who allegedly financed the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, which publishes investigations into the wealth of Russia’s political elites.

Its most recent video report claiming Putin was given a $ 1.35 billion plot of land on the Black Sea coast received over 100 million views on YouTube, making it Navalny’s most watched research.

The Kremlin has denied that the Russian president owns the opulent complex, which Navalny said includes an underground ice hockey arena, a private casino and vineyards.

State television on Friday attempted to rebut opposition claims that the Black Sea property was a luxurious palace by broadcasting footage of objects under construction.

Billionaire Arkady Rotenberg – Putin’s former judo partner who is under Western sanctions – said Saturday that he owns the property and is building a hotel there.

(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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