MOSCOW (Reuters) – Police detained more than 350 people across Russia on Saturday and broke up rallies around the country as protesters defied bitter cold and a ban by authorities to demand the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny had called on his supporters to protest after being arrested last weekend as he returned to Moscow for the first time since being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in August. Navalny had been treated in Germany.

In central Moscow, police detained at least 100 people before the protest had even begun, bundling them into nearby vans. Around 1,000 people had gathered before the rally was due to start at 1100 GMT.

Some chanted “Putin is a thief” and “Disgrace” as police swept people off the streets.

Video footage from Vladivostok showed riot police chasing a group of protesters down the street, while demonstrators in Khabarovsk, braving temperatures of around -14 Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit), chanted “Bandits!”

Police in Siberia’s Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world where the temperature was -52 Celsius on Saturday, grabbed a protester by his arms and legs and dragged him into a van, video footage from the scene showed.

By Ian Dei

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