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More than 1,000 people were arrested during protests against Navalny in Russia when protesters defied the ban

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Police officers arrest a participant in an unauthorized rally held in Sennaya Square by supporters of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

Alexander Demianchuk | TASS | Getty Images

More than 1,000 people were arrested in Russia after participating in unauthorized protests in support of imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Demonstrations took place across Russia on Wednesday, with rallies in the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg attracting the most visitors, despite a current ban on protests in Russia.

Supporters of the opposition activist Navalny take part in an unauthorized rally in support of the imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny in Moscow on April 21, 2021.

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OVD-Info, an independent NGO that monitors protests in Russia, said on Twitter the protests had taken place in more than 90 cities across Russia and resulted in more than 1,600 arrests, although the number is difficult to verify. The surveillance group also said there were reports that police used tear gas and stun guns on protesters, but these have not been verified.

Activists shout slogan during an unauthorized protest rally in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny on Manezhnaya Square in front of the Moscow Kremlin on April 21, 2021 in Moscow, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The numbers on the number of people who have taken part in protests vary widely. Navalny’s team has claimed 60,000 people attended the protests in Moscow, while Open Media was an estimated 25,000 people on central Tverskaya Street in Moscow alone, according to the Moscow Times. However, the Russian Interior Ministry has downplayed the numbers and estimated a turnout of around 6,000 in Moscow and 4,500 in St. Petersburg, with hundreds of protesters elsewhere across Russia, according to its Facebook page.

Demonstrations in support of Navalny were called by his team when the opposition leader was rushed to a prison hospital earlier this week after falling ill while on hunger strike in prison.

Supporters of opposition activist Navalny take part in an unauthorized rally on Tverskaya Street.

Mikhail Tereshchenko | TASS | Getty Images

Police officers arrest a participant in an unauthorized rally held by supporters of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg.

Peter Kovalev | TASS | Getty Images

There were reports of multiple arrests of members of the Navalny team ahead of the unauthorized rallies with Lyubov Sobol, who regularly appears on Navalny’s popular YouTube channel, and Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman, both of whom were detained in Moscow, their lawyers said according to Reuters.

The US government has warned the Russian government not to let Navalny die in custody, adding that there will be “consequences”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made no mention of Navalny in his State of the Union address on Wednesday when protests took place. However, he warned the West against provocations by Russia and against crossing its “red lines”.

Russian riot police block a street during a rally in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on April 21, 2021 in central Saint Petersburg.

OLGA MALTSEVA | AFP | Getty Images

Last summer, Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany from a Russian hospital after being poisoned by a chemical agent on nerves.

The German government said toxicological reports showed “clear evidence” that Navalny was exposed to a nerve agent in the Novichok family developed by the Soviet Union. Toxicological tests carried out in France and Sweden also came to the same conclusion.

Navalny has accused Putin of ordering the poison attack, although Putin and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied playing a role in the poisoning.

Russian police officers guard the Kremlin Palace and Red Square on April 21, 2021.

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Steven Gregory