Russian court rejects Alexei Navalny’s arrest appeal as allies are also detained

A Russian court has rejected opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s appeal against his arrest, while authorities have detained several of his allies.

Speaking to court via video link from jail, Mr Navalny denounced criminal proceedings against him as part of the government’s efforts to intimidate the opposition.

“You won’t succeed in scaring tens of millions of people who have been robbed by that government,” he said.

Authorities have also issued warnings to social media companies after tens of thousands gathered in the streets in over 100 Russian cities last weekend demanding Mr Navalny’s release.

The 44-year-old, who is the most well-known critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government, was arrested on 17 January upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Russian authorities have rejected the accusations.

He was arrested for 30 days on request by Russia’s penitentiary service, which charged that he had violated probation terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 money-laundering conviction, which he rejected as politically driven.

He now also faces accusations in two separate criminal probes.

The Moscow Region Court rejected his appeal against the arrest.

During the court hearing, Mr Navalny’s defence argued that he was undergoing rehabilitation in Germany and so was unable to register with authorities as required by probation terms during the period.

His lawyers also contested his arrest, charging that due process was repeatedly violated.

The detention of Mr Navalny’s brother Oleg, his top ally Lyubov Sobol, Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva from the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors and Maria Alyokhina from the Pussy Riot punk collective comes as authorities try to stem another wave of protests planned for Sunday.

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All four were detained for 48 hours as part of a criminal probe into alleged violations of coronavirus regulations during the weekend’s protests.

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the detentions were a legitimate part of police efforts to investigate the alleged violations during Saturday’s rallies.

Earlier this week, Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it would fine Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and two Russian social networks for their failure to block calls on minors to join Saturday’s protests.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal probe against Mr Navalny’s top strategist Leonid Volkov, accusing him of encouraging minors to participate in unauthorised rallies.

Mr Volkov, who is not currently living in Russia, rejected the charges.

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