MOSCOW (Reuters) - Police in Russia detained two of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s allies after they landed at a Moscow airport on Tuesday and accused them of inciting unlawful protests.
Around 1,500 people in Moscow and hundreds more in cities across Russia took to the streets on Sunday in a protest organised by Navalny to support a boycott of presidential elections in March.
Incumbent Vladimir Putin is widely expected to be re-elected, but Navalny says he has been unfairly barred from running over what he says is a trumped-up suspended prison sentence.
Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, and Ruslan Shaveddinov, an activist, hosted an online broadcast of Sunday’s protests to Navalny’s supporters from an undisclosed location outside Russia which the authorities were unable to stop.
Police used power tools to force entry into Navalny’s Moscow headquarters where they shut down another online broadcast on the same day, citing a purported bomb threat.
Police detained Yarmysh and Shaveddinov at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport soon after they landed back in Russia, footage the activists shared on social media showed.
“My fan club is meeting me at the airport. They say they didn’t like our broadcast,” Shaveddinov quipped on social media, sharing a photograph of himself from the airport in which two policemen were clearly visible.
Police took the pair to a Moscow police station and told them they would be kept in overnight until a court hearing, Shaveddinov wrote on Twitter.
Navalny himself was detained for several hours on Sunday before being released without charge, his lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Reuters at the time, but would face court at a later date.
Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrew Osborn