Russian police arrest hundreds of protesters demanding Alexei Navalny’s release

Police scuffled with protesters on Saturday as they rallied in cities across Russia, defying an official ban on demonstrations and taking to the streets in temperatures as low as -50 C, to demand the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny had called on his supporters to stage demonstrations after being arrested January 17 as he returned to Moscow for the first time since being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in August.

Police in Moscow detained at least 100 people before the protest had begun, bundling them into nearby vans. Among them was Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Navalny, who wrote on her Instagram from inside a police van. Reuters journalists estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in the city. Police reportedly detained more than 850 people across Russia.

Authorities have said the protests are illegal because they had not been properly authorized. Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days last weekend for alleged parole violations.

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