Russian police are arresting protesters demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny at demonstrations in the country’s east, and larger unsanctioned rallies are expected later on Saturday in Moscow and other major cities.
Mr Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and durable foe, was arrested on January 17 when he returned to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a severe nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Authorities say his stay in Germany violated the terms of a suspended sentence in a criminal conviction in a case that Mr Navalny says was illegitimate.
He is due to appear in court in early February to determine if he will serve the three-and-a-half-year sentence in prison.
The OVD-Info organisation, which monitors political detentions, said at least 48 people were arrested in cities including Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. Organisers in Vladivostok said about 3,000 people turned out for the protest there.
Turnout is likely to be much larger for the afternoon protest planned in Moscow, which the city’s mayor and other authorities have warned people against attending.
Moscow police on Thursday arrested three top Navalny associates, two of whom were later jailed for periods of nine and 10 days.