MOSCOW (AP) — Rattled by nationwide protests over jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Russian authorities are moving rapidly to block any new ones – from piling legal pressure on his allies to launching a campaign to discredit the demonstrations.
Unprecedented mass rallies across Russia on Jan. 23 demanding Navalny’s release from jail resulted in thousands of arrests, and dozens of criminal investigations were opened. Scores of his associates and top allies have been jailed, with some facing criminal charges that carry prison terms.
President Vladimir Putin likened organizers of the protests to “terrorists,” and lawmakers charged that Navalny was a Western stooge and betrayed his country to benefit Russia’s adversaries.
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