“Yulia Navalnaya was detained at the protest! Freedom for the Navalnys!” said a tweet from Navalny’s team.
According to OVD-Info, an independent site that monitors arrests, 2,291 people have been detained so far across Russia over the unsanctioned protests, including 520 in Moscow and 242 in St. Petersburg. The total number is expected to increase.
Supporters of Navalny, who’s now been in custody for two weeks, said they were planning protests in at least 120 cities across the vast country, starting at noon local time in each location.
Protesters in Moscow planned to march down to the Matrosskaya Tishina detention center where Navalny is being held in custody, according to a CNN team on the ground. Local authorities were closing metro stops one after another leading up to the detention center in the city’s northeastern Sokolniki neighborhood.
Navalnaya was detained by police officers who did not identify themselves or provide any reason for the detention, according to Vyacheslav Gimadi, head of the legal department of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).
“Yulia Navalnaya was detained by the police during a peaceful walk in Moscow. The defense attorney was not allowed to see her, [the police officers] did not introduce themselves, did not show any IDs, did not provide any reason for the detention,” Gimadi tweeted.
Navalny was detained on January 17, moments after arriving in Moscow, following months of treatment in Germany after being poisoned in August 2020 with nerve agent Novichok. He blamed the poisoning on the Russian government, an allegation the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
The politician is currently in custody ahead of a court hearing on February 2 where a court will decide whether his suspended sentence on fraud charges in a 2014 embezzlement case should be converted into a jail term due to what Russian authorities say is the violation of the terms of his suspended sentence.
Speaking at that hearing, Navalny urged protesters to keep coming out. “They are the last barrier that prevents those in power from stealing everything. They are the real patriots,” he said. “You will not be able to intimidate us — we are the majority.”
Live video feeds and social media videos Sunday showed crowds of people gathering in a number of cities, chanting “Putin is a thief,” in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the Russian city of Novosibirsk, in Siberia, live video showed police detaining drivers who were honking their car horns in support of the protesters. In response, demonstrators were heard chanting: “Let them go!”
People could be seen with their elbows linked, forming chains, chanting “Freedom!” and “Give back our money!” as they stood in front of the city hall in the center of Novosibirsk. Rows of riot police were standing in front of them.
Protesters marching along the snowy streets could be heard chanting: “Russia without Putin!” and “one for all, and all for one.”
Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs earlier warned Russian citizens not to take part in the “unauthorized” protests. “The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia calls on citizens to refrain from participating in unauthorized protests,” the ministry said in an Instagram post.
Russian federal law requires organizers to file an appeal with local authorities at least 10 days in advance to obtain permission to hold a protest.
Police detentions in Moscow
Navalny’s team announced via their social media accounts new gathering points for protesters in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg after Russian authorities blocked off certain streets and metro stations ahead of the rallies.
Earlier in the week Navalny’s team said demonstrators in Moscow would gather in Lubyanka Square, home to the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
Russia has denied involvement in the case.
Security forces could be seen out in force in the streets of central Moscow early Sunday, including in Lubyanka Square.
Rebecca Ross, spokewoman for the US Embassy in Moscow, urged Russia to respect international human rights as protests take place across the country.
“We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights,” he continued, referring to Navalny.
CNN’s team in Moscow saw police detaining protesters in an apparent attempt to stop the protest in the capital getting under way.
Authorities announced ahead of Sunday’s protests that certain streets in the center of Moscow would be closed off, seven metro stations would be shut and that no alcohol could be sold in glass containers all day.
Additionally, the Moscow mayor’s office said that cafes, restaurants and other catering facilities would be closed in the city center on Sunday, according to Russian state media agency TASS.
“If we are silent, then tomorrow they will come after any of us,” she wrote in a post accompanying the photo, referring to Russian authorities.
“In a 16-storey bunker with an aqua disco, a random frightened person is the one who decides our fate — he might decide to jail one and to poison another one,” she wrote.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in Alexey Navalny’s poisoning with Novichok.
FBK executive director Vladimir Ashurkov, who signed the letter, told CNN on Saturday that the foundation was calling on the United States to put pressure on Putin to release Navalny.
CNN’s Zahra Ullah and Anna Chernova reported from Moscow and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Mary Ilyushina and Ali Main contributed to this report.