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Moscow Police Warn Activists About Navalny’s March 26 Rally

Aleksei Navalny (file photo)
Aleksei Navalny (file photo)

Moscow police have announced that a rally planned by Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for March 26 is "illegal" and have warned potential participants that their safety could be in danger.

In a statement posted March 23 on a Moscow police website, authorities told potential attendees that "your personal safety may be under threat. The event is illegal."

On March 18, Moscow authorities refused a request from Navalny for permission to hold the protest in central Moscow.

On March 22, he said the authorities had proposed two alternate sites in less-central neighborhoods.

But Navalny rejected the offer and pledged to conduct the rally near the Kremlin, setting up a possible showdown with police.

Organizers have said they hope to hold rallies in 98 cities and towns across Russia.

Moscow authorities said one reason they rejected the rally application was because organizers had scheduled several events at the same time and, therefore, could not ensure the safety of participants and local residents.

Navalny has called for demonstrators to start gathering at 2 p.m. Moscow time on March 26 at "any point on Tverskaya Street" -- a main artery that ends outside Red Square and the Kremlin.

Navalny, who helped lead large antigovernment demonstrations in Russia during 2011 and 2012, said he wants to bring as many as 15,000 people to the streets of Moscow to protest against what he says is rampant corruption among officials close to President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny announced in December that he will run for president in a March 2018 election when Putin is widely expected to seek a new six-year term.

Russian authorities say Navalny will be barred from the ballot if a conviction on charges of financial crimes is upheld on appeal. But he has pushed ahead with his campaign.

Navalny denies any wrongdoing, saying his convictions in two separate cases were politically motivated punishment for his opposition to Putin.

With reporting by AP and Interfax
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