Moscow court puts Navalny's allies under house arrest

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FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2021, file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears on a TV screen during a court hearing appealing his jailing, with an image of the Kremlin in the background in Moscow, Russia. Navalny was jailed when he arrived in Moscow on Jan. 17, after authorities accused him of violating the terms of his parole on a 2014 fraud conviction. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

A Moscow court on Friday put the brother and several allies of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny under house arrest for two months as authorities sought to stymie more protests over the jailing of the top Kremlin foe.

Navalny's supporters called for rallies on Sunday to demand his release. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Russia last weekend to protest his Jan. 17 arrest and 30-day detention.

Moscow police announced that pedestrian movement would be restricted in the city center on Sunday and that subway stations in the vicinity of the planned protest site would be closed. Restaurants and stores in the area also will be closed, mayoral aide Alexei Nemeryuk was quoted as saying by the state news agency Tass.

The 44-year-old Navalny, the anti-corruption investigator and the best-known critic of President Vladimir Putin’s government was arrested upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusations.

Navalny was jailed for 30 days after Russia’s prison service alleged he had violated the probation terms of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that he has rejected as politically motivated.

On Thursday, a Moscow court rejected his appeal to be released, and another hearing next week could turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one he must serve in prison. Navalny's brother, Oleg, served a 3 1/2-year sentence after being convicted in the same case in what was widely seen as an attempt to pressure the opposition leader.

As part of government efforts to stem the protests, police detained Navalny’s brother, his top ally, Lyubov Sobol; Oleg Stepanov, the head of Navalny’s Moscow office; Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva from the Navalny-backed Alliance of Doctors; and Maria Alekhina from the Pussy Riot punk collective. They were detained for 48 hours as part of a criminal probe into alleged violations of coronavirus regulations during last weekend’s protests.

On Friday, Moscow's Tverskoy District Court put them under house arrest until March 23 as requested by investigators.