Dozens of Navalny supporters detained in Russia

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny hold balloons as they speak to police near the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 8, 2017, a day after Navalny was released from 25 days in jail for organising unauthorised protests. The 41-year-old Kremlin critic was sentenced to 25 days in police cells for organising a day of protests on June 12 against official corruption and Putin’s rule that saw more than 1,700 protesters detained nationwide.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / Maxim ZMEYEV

More than 60 supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were arrested across Russia on Saturday as they distributed campaigning material, a pro-democracy group said.

“As things stand, at least 66 people have been arrested, 35 of them in Moscow,” said the OVD-Info NGO a day after Navalny finished a 25-day jail term for organising unauthorised protests against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

“I was arrested while I was in a car. In the boot was a balloon with Navalny’s name on it,” tweeted Nikolai Kassiane, a Moscow-based campaign organiser for Navalny.

Navalny, who hopes to stand against Putin in next year’s presidential election, has twice been jailed in recent months for organising sizeable anti-corruption rallies banned by the authorities and which saw scores of arrests.

Navalny insists he will keep up his fight and has been travelling around the country promoting his election bid, although electoral authorities say a suspended prison sentence makes him ineligible to run for office.

He has been assaulted a number of times — one attack caused a serious eye injury — and has faced a number of legal obstacles since announcing his bid for the presidential race in December.

Putin has yet to confirm whether he will seek re-election himself.

The Russian leader was curt when asked about Navalny on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

“I believe we can have a dialogue… with people who propose constructive, even if critical, positions.

“But as regards those who only try to draw attention to themselves, then there is no point in dialogue,” said Putin.

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