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Russian police release opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Russian police release opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained along with almost 1,600 of his supporters on Saturday during nationwide rallies against Vladimir Putin as police and paramilitary activists used force to break up rallies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

"If you think that he is not our Tsar, take to the streets of your cities", opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a statement issued ahead of the protests.

Footage of the detention posted online showed five policemen carting him off to a waiting van by his arms and legs.

The protests come days before the scheduled inauguration of Putin for his fourth term as president, which would extend his effective political control of Russian Federation into its third decade.

"They said that this city belongs to Putin".

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, branded Mr Navalny as "a political charlatan" and warned his supporters that their rallies were illegal and would not be tolerated.

Among the crowd on Pushkin Square were pockets of pro-Putin supporters, many of them young men, who shouted "Our country, our rules" and "We are for Putin".

"Apparently the order came down not to 'jail me before the (Putin) inauguration, '" wrote Navalny.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who stood behind the protests, as well as his associate Nikolai Lyaskin were detained in Moscow.

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Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said it was hard to tell exactly how many people had shown up at the protests due to different estimations from police and protesters themselves.

Putin is due to be inaugurated on Monday in a Kremlin ceremony heavy on pomp and circumstance.

Navalny had previously said Armenia should set "a good example for Russia" on how the persistence of people taking to the streets can drive change.

"They're even worse than bandits - the people in power have made this country unfit for living", said Natalia Znaminskaya, 58, editor of a regional journal in the Moscow suburbs.

Furthermore, Ukraine and its global partners call for the immediate release of illegally detained persons and ensuring their rights to peaceful protest against tyranny and injustice. Video showed some demonstrators being detained.

With more than 56 million votes, nearly 77 percent of the total, his March election win was his biggest ever and the largest by any post-Soviet Russian leader, something he and his allies say gave him an unequivocal mandate to govern.

"I'm not too sure what the protesters want, but, economically, we're fine", said a 37-year-old business analyst who would only give her first name, Olga, who happened upon the Moscow rally on her regular weekend walk.

The 65-year-old has governed Russian Federation for 18 years, serving six years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 and the rest as President.

Navalny was barred from running for president against Putin earlier this year and has no clear avenue for gaining elective office.

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