MORE than 3,000 protesters were arrested as fresh street fury erupted across Russia yesterday over the jailing of poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Opposition leader Navalny, 44, detonated the biggest unrest of Vladimir Putin’s 21-year reign, claiming the strongman president plundered £1 billion to build a Black Sea pleasure palace.
Navalny’s video of the opulent retreat – revealed to have its own pole dancing club in The Sun last month – has now been viewed more than 100 million times.
Anger over the claims made, as the nation battles covid misery, was heard at protests by tens of thousands across the vast nation’s 11 time zones yesterday.
Protesters in Moscow – where Navlany’s wife Yulia was among those held – chanted “Aqua discotheque!" in reference to the palace pole dance venue and "Putin, resign!" “Putin, thief!"
Images later emerged of a police car on fire in the Russian capital while a man pinned down by riot cops in the city of Chelyabinsk was heard shouting: "I can't breathe, guys, I can't breathe.”
Navalny – arrested last month as soon as he returned to Moscow after recovering in Berlin from a novichok poison attack in August – lost an appeal against his detention last Thursday.
He faces a further three-and-a-half years behind bars for failing to report to police while he was fighting for his life in hospital.
His aides had called for yesterday’s protest to be held on Moscow's Lubyanka Square – home of the FSB security service he says ordered his botched assassination.
But thousands of police sealed off the square and began grabbing protesters, who began gathering at another meeting point a mile away yesterday morning.
Thousands then marched to Matrosskaya Tishina Prison where Navalny is being held and were met by a wall of cops, who made hundreds more arrests.
Around 90 more were held at one of the biggest rallies in the city of Novosibirsk in eastern Siberia and 2,000 more marched across Russia's second-largest city of St. Petersburg.
Scuffles erupted as some demonstrators pushed back police snatch squads who ran into the crowd grabbing ringleaders.
In the far eastern port of Vladivostok, more than 100 people were detained after protesters danced on the ice and rallied in the city center.
Yesterdays unrest marked the second weekend of mass protest, despite Kremlin moves to lock up Navalny campaign chiefs in recent days.
His brother Oleg, top aide Lyubov Sobol and three other people were put under two-month house arrest on Friday on charges of violating coronavirus restrictions by joining demos.
The new wave of unrest comes despite government demands that social media platforms block calls to join the protests.
Thousands turned out despite warnings they could face eight – 15 years in jail.
A week earlier, 4,000 people were reportedly detained in more than 100 Russian cities with some fined and jailed.
Putin says that neither he nor any of his close relatives own the property – which is claimed to have been built for his exclusive use by his corrupt, super-rich cronies.
Construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, a close Putin pal and judo sparring partner, claimed that he himself owned the property on Saturday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US condemns "the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight".
He added: "We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksey Navalny."
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