Russian police detain Putin critic Navalny ahead of Moscow protest

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MOSCOW-Police detained Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to his Twitter feed on Monday, hours before a protest in Moscow that he had called against official corruption.

Although city authorities had agreed to a location for the Moscow protest, Navalny called for it to be moved to one of Moscow's main thoroughfares.

A rally in Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city that's nearly 3,000 kilometers east of the capital, brought out about 5,000 people, local organizer Sergey Boyko said on Navalny's YouTube broadcast.

Navalny, who has called for nationwide anti-corruption protests on June 12, changed the venue of the Moscow rally to Tverskaya Street close to the Kremlin late last night.

As police detained demonstrators, hundreds of others shouted slogans including "Putin is a thief" and "Shame!"

At least four people were detained on June 12 in the city of Blagoveshchensk, including the organizer of the unauthorized protests there, according to OVD-Info, a site that tracks protests and police actions in Russian Federation.

On the eve of the event, which authorities had authorised in central Moscow, Navalny announced the protest was changing location after authorities blocked his efforts set up a stage and sound equipment.

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Electricity in Navalny's office was switched off, his spokeswoman said in a separate Twitter message.

The mood was tense as some groups of protesters vowed to go to the authorised location and anxious doing otherwise could get them arrested.

The nationwide scale of the March protests and the participation of a large number of young people came as a surprise to the Kremlin, which faces an uphill task to ensure a decisive re-election for Putin in nine months' time amid a steep fall in living standards after the longest recession in two decades.

Navalny has become the most prominent figure in an opposition that has been troubled by factional disputes.

Navalny argues that he was forced to call people to another unauthorised rally, claiming that no firm would supply a stage, screens or speakers for the protest he had been given permission for. He had also demanded that Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev tender his resignation. He was jailed for 15 days after the March protests.

Navalny is trying to get on the ballot for the March 2018 presidential election, in which Putin is widely expected to seek and secure a fourth term as president.

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