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Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny attends a hearing at a court in Moscow on June 24.

Police in Moscow dispersed a crowd of about two dozen people and detained a Russian journalist at a prison hospital where opposition activist Aleksei Navalny is being treated for what his personal doctor says are possible effects of “undefined chemical substances.”

Video footage emerged on Twitter of police clad in tactical gear emerging from a bus on July 29 in front of the hospital, detaining and chasing down people who had assembled outside the hospital.



A reporter from the Internet TV station Dozhd was detained while reporting live from the scene as the group of people stood in the background near the hospital’s entrance.



Navalny’s attending physician, Anastasiya Vasilyeva, said on Facebook that she doesn’t believe the Kremlin foe is suffering from what his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, had said was a “severe allergic reaction.”

Vasilyeva and cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin briefly spoke to Navalny late on July 28 through the crack of a door and said she could not rule out that he had been poisoned.

Yarmysh earlier tweeted that Navalny had arrived at the hospital with “severe facial swelling and red rashes on the skin.”

She also said that Navalny had “never experienced an allergic reaction before.”

Officials gave no details of Navalny's condition, and Russia's Interior Ministry did not respond to requests from Western news agencies for comment.

Vasilyeva noted that Navalny had a rash on his upper body, skin lesions, and discharge from his eye. She called for samples of his bed sheets, skin, and hair to be tested for signs of chemical agents.

Vasilyeva also said she found it suspicious that authorities did not allow her to examine him properly.

Navalny was sentenced last week to 30 days for calling for an unsanctioned protest in Moscow on July 27. Nearly 1,400 people were detained by police around the rally, according to reporting by AFP.

The demonstration was called to denounce election officials in Moscow who have refused to register independent and opposition candidates for the September 8 vote to the 45-seat Moscow City Duma legislature.

Leonid Volkov, a top aide to Navalny, tweeted on July 28 that he'd had a similar reaction after he served a sentence in the same cell as Navalny last month.

Volkov rejected talk of a "conspiracy" and called instead for a "serious inspection" of hygiene standards at the detention center.

Navalny has been sentenced to jail about a dozen times in recent years and has served more than 200 days in incarceration.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Police Beat, Detain Protesters And Opposition Figures At Moscow Rally
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MOSCOW – Police in Moscow detained more than 1,300 people in a day of protests against alleged irregularities in the run-up to local elections, according to an independent group that monitors crackdowns on demonstrations.

Officers clad in riot gear used batons against demonstrators who had gathered outside Moscow City Hall on July 27 and roughly detained people.

The crackdown continued after the protesters moved to other locations in the Russian capital, chanting slogans such as "Russia without [President Vladimir] Putin!"

The United States, the European Union, and human rights groups denounced what they called the "disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” use of force against the demonstrators, who were protesting against the refusal of election officials to register several opposition figures as candidates in municipal polls in September.

Opposition leaders said the ban was an attempt to deny them the chance to challenge pro-government candidates.

Meanwhile, police on July 28 detained an opposition politician as he was buying food for protesters.

Opposition candidate Dmitry Gudkov was detained as he was coming out of a shop where he was buying food for demonstrators still being held by authorities.

It was not immediately clear whether Gudkov faces formal charges.

Gudkov had been among several opposition figures and would-be candidates who were detained by police ahead of or during the July 27 protest but released later that evening.

Moscow District Councilor Clubbed By Police In Opposition Rally Crackdown
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Police said 1,074 arrests were made at the unsanctioned rally, while the OVD-Info independent organization reported 1,373 detentions.

A number of those held were released by the evening.

Several opposition figures and would-be candidates were among those detained by police, including Gudkov, Ivan Zhdanov, and Ilya Yashin.

Some protest leaders were detained on their way to the rally in central Moscow.

PHOTO GALLERY: Moscow Opposition Rally Turns Violent As Police Detain Protesters (CLICK TO VIEW)

Aleksandra Parushina, a Moscow City Duma deputy from the opposition A Just Russia party, told RFE/RL's Current Time -- a project led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA -- that she was struck in the head by riot police from Russia's OMON force, who "brutally" dispersed a crowd that was attempting to form near the Moscow mayor's office on Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow's main thoroughfares.

"Detention of over 1000 peaceful protestors in Russia and use of disproportionate police force undermine rights of citizens to participate in the democratic process," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan tweeted.

In a statement, EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the "disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters" undermined "the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly."

Amnesty International also condemned what it called the "indiscriminate use of force by police, who beat protesters with batons and knocked them to the ground."

The director of the London-based human rights watchdog's office in Russia, Natalya Zvyagina, said Russian authorities "hit a new low by imposing military lawlike security measures on the unsanctioned rally, blocking access to major Moscow streets and shutting down businesses in advance," despite the absence of credible reports of potential violence.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a close ally of Putin, had warned beforehand that "order in the city will be ensured."

Riot police forcibly detain a protester in Moscow on July 27.
Riot police forcibly detain a protester in Moscow on July 27.

It is unclear how many people turned up for the rally because authorities prevented a mass crowd from gathering together in any one location.

According to police, about 3,500 people gathered near the mayor's office, including 700 registered journalists and bloggers.

However, opposition activists said the number was much higher.

The decision to bar opposition candidates from the September 8 City Duma election over what Moscow election officials described as insufficient signatures on nominating petitions has sparked several days of demonstrations this month.

A July 20 opposition rally in Moscow drew an estimated crowd of 20,000.

Aleksei Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition activist who is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for calling the latest protest, has said demonstrations would continue until the rejected candidates are allowed to run.

The 45 members of the Moscow City Duma hold powerful posts -- retaining the ability to propose legislation as well as inspect how the city’s $43 billion budget is spent.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Matthew Luxmoore, Current Time, and Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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