Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of the detained Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, has been detained in Moscow on the sidelines of a protest held in support of her husband on Saturday, according to a video posted on social media.
The video shows Navalnaya being stopped by police at the entrance to a metro station in central Moscow near where protesters ware gathered. She is then shown being escorted to a police van.Hundreds of people have been arrested at the rallies across Russia that were held in defiance of the authorities and, in some cases, extremely low temperatures. According to OVD-Info, an independent site that monitors arrests, 863 people had been detained by early Saturday afternoon Moscow time.
The demonstrations kicked off in Russia's far east city of Vladivostok and spread to the west as the day progressed. Navalny's supporters said Friday they were planning protest across 90 cities and videos posted on social media showed crowds of people gathered in Vladivostok and a number of cities across Siberia and central Russia.
One video showed a small protest in the city of Yakutsk, where temperatures dropped to -53 degrees Celsius (- 63 Fahrenheit) on Saturday.
By early afternoon, crowds of people started to gather at Pushkin square in central Moscow, where the largest protest was expected to happen. They were met by police in riot gear. Scores of protesters were arrested even before the protest officially started.
Yulia Navalnaya joined the protest in Moscow, sharing a photo of herself at the rally on Instagram. A caption read "So happy you are here. Thank you!" Less than 30 minutes later, Navalnaya shared another photo of herself in what she says is a police car.
Navalny's mother, Lyudmila Ivanovna Navalnaya, also attended the rally in Moscow.
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs said about 4,000 people gathered for a protest in Moscow. The statement did not make any reference to Navalny and was posted about 40 minutes before the rally was set to begin.
Several allies of Navalny have been detained this week for inciting the protests, including his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, Anti-Corruption Foundation investigator Georgy Alburov and opposition activist Lyubov Sobol.
The coordinator of Navalny's Moscow office, Oleg Stepanov, was detained on Saturday, according to a tweet from Navalny's Moscow team.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs has accused the United States of encouraging the protests after the US Embassy in Russia posted an alert on its website advising US citizens to avoid the demonstrations.
In a tweet posted on Saturday, the ministry said that posting information about the rallies was "in line with Washington's provocative policy of encouraging protests in countries whose governments are seen by US as undesirable."
Under Russian law, an official appeal for approval of a protest has to be made to local authorities at least 10 days before the event. Navalny was only arrested less than a week ago, so the organizers had insufficient time to launch an appeal.
Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport late Sunday, just moments after arriving from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from Novichok poisoning he blamed on the Russian government. The Kremlin repeatedly denied any involvement.
On Monday, he faced an unexpected hearing where a judge ordered Navalny to remain in custody for 30 days ahead of a court hearing to determine whether he had violated the terms of his suspended sentence in a 2014 embezzlement case, which he claims was politically motivated.
Russian internet regulator said Thursday it was planning to fine major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, for "spreading information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events."