Alexei Navalny: Thousands of Russians protest against detention of Kremlin’s critic

Thousands in Russia took part in protests against the detention of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

They called for Navalny, who has been on hunger strike for weeks, to receive proper medical care. More than 1,000 people were reportedly arrested.

Navalny, 44, was jailed in February and is demanding medical attention for acute back pain and leg numbness.

The largest protest was in Moscow, but others took place in major cities.

These included St Petersburg, Vladivostok in the Far East, a number of cities in Siberia, and the central city of Vladimir where Navalny is being held.

The opposition hoped Wednesday’s protests would be the largest in years, but reports suggest they have been smaller than those that took place shortly before Navalny was jailed.

More than 14,000 people protested in 29 cities, police said. This included 6,000 people who gathered in Moscow.

But estimates from monitoring groups tend to far exceed official police figures. One such group, OVD-Info, said more than 1,000 people had been detained nationwide.

The protesters defied stark warnings from the authorities and a heavy police presence in most major cities.

“Any aggressive actions by participants in unauthorised public meetings, especially attempts to provoke clashes with law enforcement officials, will be regarded as a threat to public safety and immediately suppressed,” the interior ministry said earlier this week.

In Moscow, riot police urged people to leave the protest area and formed barricades to try and contain the demonstrators’ route.

On Monday, Alexey Navalny was moved from a penal colony to a regional hospital for prisoners east of Moscow as concerns grew over his health.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said in a statement that the opposition leader had been moved to the hospital, which specializes in “dynamic” observation of patients. The hospital is located on the “territory” of another penal colony, in the Vladimir region.

The statement said that Navalny was in “satisfactory” condition and is being examined by a doctor every day. With Navalny’s consent, he has been prescribed “vitamin therapy,” the penitentiary service added.

Navalny has been on hunger strike since March 31, demanding “proper medical care”.