MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny was arrested by Moscow’s police on Thursday and held briefly before being released facing charges that could carry a 30-day jail term, according to statements posted on his Twitter account.
His arrest took place less than a month before presidential elections from which he has been barred.
“I had a toothache so I went to the dentist,” Navalny said. “When I left the clinic...surprise, the police appeared: – You are under arrest – They are taking me somewhere,” he added.
He later followed up by saying that he had been notified he had broken the law and could serve 30 days in detention.
Navalny’s lawyer said he did not know the reason for his client’s arrest.
“I specifically wrote nothing and did not tweet anything about Jan. 28,” Navalny said, adding, “And still: Detained! For a tweet written after the rally, I’m telling you, I have a time machine!”
The alleged infringement is reportedly related to a minor administrative offense punishing repeated infringements of Russia’s political assembly laws.
After his release, Navalny added on his Twitter account, “they offered to take me wherever I wanted. I refused their offer and made my way back to work: I didn’t understand a thing, neither do I understand why it took seven people to arrest me.”
Navalny’s scrapes with Russia’s courts have become an ongoing feud.
He was arrested on Jan. 28, and accused of allegedly hitting a policeman during an anti-government demonstration he organized, calling on fellow Russians to join a “voters’ strike” in response to a prior court verdict barring his presidential election candidacy.
The March 18 elections look set to return Vladimir Putin to the presidency where he could remain in power until 2024.
Navalny had organized a protest march in Moscow for Sunday, on the third anniversary of the assassination of liberal opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, gunned-down on Feb. 27, 2015, just meters away from the Kremlin.
News broke on Thursday of the arrest of Navalny’s electoral director, Leonid Volkov, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport as he was about to take a plane to the Ufa region, where he planned to meet party militants.
Russia’s judiciary also ordered the closure of “Fifth Station,” a foundation that managed Navalny’s electoral funds and organized fund-raising events.