In Russia, effort underway to curb upcoming Navalny protests

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FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2018, file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, centre, attends a rally in Moscow, Russia. Navalny is an anti-corruption campaigner and the Kremlins fiercest critic. He has outlasted many opposition figures and is undeterred by incessant attempts to stop his work. (AP Photo/Evgeny Feldman, File)

MOSCOW – Authorities in Russia have taken elaborate measures to curb protests against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, planned by his supporters for Saturday in more than 60 Russian cities.

Navalny's associates in Moscow and other regions have been detained in the lead-up to the rallies. Opposition supporters and independent journalists have been approached by police officers with official warnings against protesting.

Universities and colleges in different Russian regions have urged students not to attend rallies, with some saying they may be subject to disciplinary action, including expulsion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that “it is only natural that there are warnings ... about the possible consequences related to noncompliance with the law" since there are calls for “unauthorized, unlawful events.”

Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Kremlin’s fiercest critic, was arrested Sunday when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. On Monday, a judge ordered Navalny jailed for 30 days.

He faces a years-long prison term — authorities accused him of violating the terms of a suspended sentence in a 2014 conviction for financial misdeeds, including when he was convalescing in Germany.

Navalny’s supporters have called for nationwide demonstrations on Saturday to pressure the government into releasing the politician, but have come under pressure themselves.

On Thursday evening, police in Moscow detained three top associates of Navalny. On Friday, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh was ordered to spend nine days in jail, and Georgy Alburov was jailed for 10 days. Navalny's close ally Lyubov Sobol was released Thursday night, but ordered by a court on Friday to pay a fine equivalent to $3,300. All three have been charged with violating protest regulations.