Chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin, tens of thousands took to the streets Sunday across Russia's vast expanse to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, keeping up the nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. More than 3,300 people were detained by police, according to a monitoring group, and some were beaten. Authorities mounted a massive effort to stem the tide of demonstrations after tens of thousands rallied across the country last weekend in the largest, most widespread show of discontent that Russia has seen in years. Despite threats of jail terms, warnings to social media groups and tight police cordons, the protests again engulfed many cities, the AP reports. The 44-year-old Navalny, an anti-corruption investigator who is Putin's best-known critic, was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusations.
The US urged Russia to release Navalny and criticized the crackdown. "The US condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected Blinken's call as a "crude interference in Russia's internal affairs" and accused Washington of trying to destabilize the situation in the country. The arrests Sunday took place across Russia's 11 time zones, according to OVD-Info, a monitoring group. In Moscow, authorities introduced unprecedented security in the city center, closing subway stations near the Kremlin, cutting bus traffic, and ordering restaurants and stores to stay closed. Police randomly picked up people and put them in police buses, but thousands marched across the city center for hours, chanting "Putin, resign!" Some of the biggest rallies were held in Novosibirsk in eastern Siberia and Yekaterinburg in the Urals. "I do not want my grandchildren to live in such a country," said Vyacheslav Vorobyov, 55, in Yekaterinburg. "I want them to live in a free country."
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