Russia is getting ready for brand new road protests in opposition to the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Navalny

© Reuters. Navalny supporters protest his arrest

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Supporters of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were due to host new protests in Moscow and Russia on Sunday for a second weekend in a row, despite sharp crackdown on his allies and the certainty of a confrontation with the police.

The rallies are part of a campaign to win the release of President Vladimir Putin's staunch opponent, who was arrested on January 17th after his return from Germany. He had recovered from nerve agent poisoning in Russia there.

The 44-year-old opposition politician accuses Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies.

Navalny is accused of committing parole violations. A court will meet next week to consider a sentence of up to three and a half years.

The protests following Navalny's dramatic return to Moscow despite the threat of arrest put Putin in a dilemma on how to react. Surveys show pent-up frustrations among Russians over years of falling wages and the consequences of the pandemic.

The West has asked Moscow to let Navalny go, and its allies have appealed to US President Joe Biden to sanction 35 people who they say are Putin's close allies.

To enhance the home support in an online video that has been viewed over 100 million times, Navalny has accused Putin of being the ultimate owner of a magnificent Black Sea palace, which the Kremlin leader has denied.

On the eve of the protests, Arkady Rotenberg, a businessman and Putin's former judo sparring partner, said he owned the property.

The police have warned that the protests on Sunday were not approved and are considered illegal and will be disbanded as they did last weekend. You also said protesters could spread COVID-19.

According to a protest monitoring group, officials arrested more than 4,000 people at the rallies last Saturday. Protesters in a city had temperatures of -52 degrees Celsius. (-62 Fahrenheit)

In Moscow, the police seemed to be having difficulty finding enough space in the prison. One protester said authorities did not find him a cell until late Wednesday after arresting him on Saturday.

This weekend in Moscow, Navalny supporters plan to gather near the Kremlin administration and the headquarters of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, where protesters overturned a statue of the founder of the secret police during the 1991 Soviet breakup.

Police said Friday they would close seven subway stations and restrict pedestrian movement in the area due to the protest plans.

Many of Navalny's prominent allies were severely attacked this week. Some, including his brother Oleg, are under house arrest.

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