The video shows Navalnaya being stopped by police at the entrance of a subway station in central Moscow near the gathering of demonstrators. She is then shown escorted to a police car. She was later released from custody on Saturday, according to a tweet from the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation.
The Moscow demonstration was one of dozens of opposition rallies held against the authorities across Russia on Saturday. More than 1,900 people have been arrested during various protests in nearly 100 cities, according to OVD-Info, an independent agency that monitors arrests.
The demonstrations began in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok and spread westward during the day. Navalny supporters said Friday they were planning protests in 90 cities, and videos and photos posted on social media showed crowds gathered in a number of cities across the country.
A video showed a small protest in the city of Yakutsk, where temperatures fell to -53 degrees Celsius on Saturday.
Moscow and St. Petersburg saw some of the biggest crowds. Thousands of people gathered in the early afternoon on Pushkin Square in central Moscow, carrying banners and chanting “Putin is a thief” and “One for all and all for one!” Most wore face masks because of the coronavirus epidemic.
They were hit by riot police who tried to push them away with batons. A loud message asking people to leave was repeated. “Dear citizens, this event is illegal. We are doing our best to ensure your safety. Be vigilant and leave the illegal event if possible.” According to the Russian Interior Ministry, around 4,000 people gathered for a protest in Moscow. The statement was not related to Navalny and was released about 40 minutes before the start of the rally.
Numerous demonstrators were arrested before the protest officially began. By the end of the day, according to OVD-Info, more than 500 people were detained in Moscow alone.
One of the protesters who attended the Moscow rally, Kirill, said he was protesting because “you cannot win a fight without fighting”. Speaking at the demonstration, the 20-year-old told CNN: “I’m not proud of my country, I don’t want my government to poison people and put people in jail. I want more freedom. I want fair elections and normal government, so I try to stand up for my freedom here. “
Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Ivanovna Navalnaya, also attended the rally in Moscow.
The demonstrations have not received official government permits and the authorities have warned people not to take part.
Several of Navalny’s allies were arrested this week for inciting the protests, including his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, anti-corruption foundation investigator Georgy Alburov and opposition activist Lyubov Sobol.
Navalny’s Moscow office coordinator Oleg Stepanov was arrested by Navalny on Saturday following a tweet from the Moscow team.
The Russian State Department has accused the United States of promoting the protests after the US Embassy in Russia posted a warning on its website urging US citizens to avoid the demonstrations.
In a tweet posted on Saturday, the ministry said the release of information about the rallies “is in line with Washington’s provocative policy of encouraging protests in countries whose governments are viewed by the US as undesirable”.
According to Russian law, an official call for approval of a protest must be submitted to local authorities at least 10 days before the event. Navalny was arrested less than a week ago, so organizers did not have enough time to appeal. The Russian Internet regulator said Thursday it plans to punish major social networks like Twitter, Facebook and TikTok for “disseminating information prohibited by law and attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events”.
US Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross accused the Russian authorities of suppressing the right to peaceful political assembly and free speech. “This continues years of Russia tightening restrictions, taking repressive measures against civil society, independent media and political opposition,” she said in a statement on Twitter.
European Union High Representative Josep Borrell condemned the “widespread detentions, disproportionate use of force” by the Russian authorities during the protests on Saturday and said he would discuss the “next steps” with EU foreign ministers on Monday.
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement on Saturday it was “deeply concerned” about the detention of protesters. “We urge the Russian government to respect and comply with its international human rights obligations and to release citizens who have been detained during peaceful demonstrations,” the statement said.
CNN’s Matthew Chance in Moscow and Martin Goillandeau and Zahid Mahmood in London contributed to this report.