Also On POLITICO From the archive Alexei Navalny, Russian dissident in winter By Francesca Ebel US foreign office condemns Russian crackdown on protests By Rebecca Morin Anti-Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, protesters detained at Moscow rally By Nicholas Vinocur “We want the downsides of the Kremlin not letting Navalny stand in the election to grow higher than the downsides of allowing him to run,” Leonid Volkov, his campaign manager, told POLITICO. “This will happen when everyone recognizes that keeping him off the ballot is a sign of weakness by Putin.”A video watched by millionsMore than 13 million people have so far watched an online video in which Navalny alleges that Medvedev funneled funds from charities and NGOs into mansions and luxury yachts. The Kremlin has refused to comment on the claims.This week, lawmakers from Russia’s Communist Party, the second largest party in parliament, asked for a parliamentary investigation into the allegations, in a move that raised eyebrows in Russia’s carefully-managed political system.While Putin’s popularity remains high, almost three years of economic decline have plunged millions into poverty and the Kremlin is sensitive to allegations of high-level corruption. As many as 41 percent of Russians are struggling to feed themselves, according to a recent poll from the Moscow Higher School of Economics.“Navalny is pressuring and will continue to pressure the Kremlin, but he is unpredictable and his participation in the election would make the campaign very difficult for Putin,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin advisor who is now critical of Putin, told POLITICO. “The Kremlin will want to keep him off the ballot.”This article was updated with new figures for the number of people arrested in Moscow. A bid from the oppositionNavalny’s presidential bid looked to have been derailed last month when he was convicted on fraud charges he said were revenge for his opposition to Putin and handed a five-year suspended sentence.Under Russian law, anyone under criminal conviction is barred from running for public office. Navalny, a liberal politician with a foot also in the nationalist camp, says the constitution stipulates that only people serving jail time are banned from standing in elections. In an audacious attempt to force himself onto the ballot, he has recently begun opening election campaign offices across Russia.“I represent the interests of millions of people who want to see real change in Russia,” he told hundreds of campaign volunteers in Tomsk, a university town in west Siberia, this month. “I demand my right to participate in this election.”Navalny and his supporters have faced mounting pressure as they take their message of dissent to Russia’s heartland: The opposition leader was twice assaulted by pro-Kremlin activists last week, while campaign volunteers have had their apartments and cars vandalized. In Barnaul, in south Siberia, Navalny was sprayed with a green dye, while in Volgograd, in Russia’s south, he was attacked by people who claimed to be Cossacks. He escaped uninjured.Despite the threats and intimidation, Navalny plans to open more than 80 campaign offices in the coming months. His campaign team says it has registered over 40,000 volunteers and raised 26 million rubles (€422,000) in public donations in just three months.While Putin’s popularity remains high, almost three years of economic decline have plunged millions into poverty. “In any normal European country, allegations that the prime minister was involved in large-scale corruption would result in an investigation,” said Pavel Troshin, a 20-year-old student, shortly before dozens of police officers in body armor began the first of several attempts to clear the square. “But in Russia, there is absolutely zero reaction from the authorities.”‘Russia without Putin’The size of the Moscow rally was hard to estimate but police, who traditionally significantly downplay attendance at opposition protests, said 7,000 people had turned out. The real figure may have been much higher. The protests were the first time that Russia’s National Guard, a new security force formed last year to quash mass dissent, was called into action. Protesters later marched toward Red Square, where they chanted “Russia without Putin!”The scale of Sunday’s protests and the fact that opposition supporters defied the authorities’ ban on demonstrations will cause concern in the Kremlin.Protesters in Moscow included thousands of young people who have lived their entire lives under Putin. “Young people are more in tune with the situation in our country,” said Yekaterina, 17. “We get our information from the internet, while most adults just watch state TV.” It was a sentiment echoed by Vladimir, 37. “Young people still have faith that Russia can be a normal country,” he said. “But most adults lost hope long ago and are resigned to corruption.” Both declined to give their surnames for fear of reprisal.Protests also took place in Russia’s far east, Siberia, the Urals region, the Black Sea coast and the far north of the country. In Vladivostok, a Pacific Ocean port city, police made dozens of arrests. More than 5,000 people defied police warnings to attend a protest in St Petersburg. Police said 130 people were arrested in that city.Navalny leading the protest, prior to his arrest | Evgeny Feldman for Navalny campaign/EPAThe scale of Sunday’s protests and the fact that opposition supporters defied the authorities’ ban on demonstrations will cause concern in the Kremlin ahead of next year’s presidential election. Putin has not formally announced he will run, but high-level leaks to Russian media suggest he will seek a fourth term in office that would take him to 2024 — and a quarter of a century in power. Only Joseph Stalin ruled Russia for longer. MOSCOW — Russian police detained Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin critic who wants to take on Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential elections, during the largest nationwide protests for more than five years.Sunday’s opposition rallies, which had been called by Navalny over allegations that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took over a $1 billion in bribes from state banks and wealthy businessmen, took place in more than 80 towns and cities across Russia, as furious protesters defied police bans on unsanctioned political gatherings.More than 850 people were detained in Moscow, according to rights activists, including Navalny’s entire anti-corruption organization, and 130 in St. Petersburg. Protesters filled a square just a short walk from the Kremlin, plastering a statue of Alexander Pushkin, the country’s 19th-century national poet, with anti-government stickers and signs. “Put Medvedev on trial!” read one sign. Clashes broke out between protesters and riot police after Navalny, a 40-year-old anti-corruption lawyer, was arrested near the square.