Tens of thousand protesters turned out in arctic temperature to demand the release of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s top opposition figure.
Protests took place in 38 cities across Russia, with an estimated 15,000 in Pushkin Square in Moscow alone. Navalny had called for protests in response to the Kremlin’s decision to detain and imprison him upon his return to Russia.
Over 3,400 protesters were arrested nationwide by the evening, including Navalny’s wife.
The protesters turned out despite the temperature hitting -50°F in some areas.
The Russian government said that Navalny was arrested for breaking his parole by staying out of the country for so long.
Russian authorities arrested thousands during the protests after warning them not to gather due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.
Helmeted riot officers sporadically grabbed participants and pushed them into police buses.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow tweeted that it was monitoring a number of protests, with over 350 protesters and journalists arrested within the first hours.
The opposition leader had been recovering in Berlin for five months after surviving a severe nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Navalny has been jailed repeatedly in connection with protests and twice was convicted of financial misdeeds in cases that he said were politically motivated. He suffered significant eye damage when an assailant threw disinfectant into his face and was taken from jail to a hospital in 2019 with an illness that authorities said was an allergic reaction but that many suspected was poisoning.
Navalny is to appear in court in early February to determine if he will serve the 3 1/2-year sentence in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.