More than 60 supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were arrested across Russia on Saturday as they distributed campaigning material, a pro-democracy group said.
“As things stand, at least 66 people have been arrested, 35 of them in Moscow,” said the OVD-Info NGO a day after Navalny finished a 25-day jail term for organising unauthorised protests against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
“I was arrested while I was in a car. In the boot was a balloon with Navalny’s name on it,” tweeted Nikolai Kassiane, a Moscow-based campaign organiser for Navalny.
Navalny, who hopes to stand against Putin in next year’s presidential election, has twice been jailed in recent months for organising sizeable anti-corruption rallies banned by the authorities and which saw scores of arrests.
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Navalny insists he will keep up his fight and has been travelling around the country promoting his election bid, although electoral authorities say a suspended prison sentence makes him ineligible to run for office.
He has been assaulted a number of times — one attack caused a serious eye injury — and has faced a number of legal obstacles since announcing his bid for the presidential race in December.
Putin has yet to confirm whether he will seek re-election himself.
The Russian leader was curt when asked about Navalny on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
“I believe we can have a dialogue… with people who propose constructive, even if critical, positions.
“But as regards those who only try to draw attention to themselves, then there is no point in dialogue,” said Putin.
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