Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned weekend protests demanding the release of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny as dangerous and illegal.
Mr. Putin blasted the protesters on Monday even as allies of the fierce Kremlin critic announced plans for a similar rally on Sunday, January 31.
Last Saturday, police arrested more than 3,700 people and used force to break up rallies across Russia as tens of thousands of protesters ignored extreme cold and police warnings to demand Mr. Navalny be set free. Since last week, the forty-four-year-old ex-lawyer has been in jail, where he is serving a thirty-day stint for alleged parole violations that he denies.
Addressing a gathering of students in Moscow on Monday, Mr. Putin strongly denied a Navalny accusation, made last week, which has since garnered more than 86 million views on YouTube. Mr. Navalny had alleged that the Russian leader owned an opulent Black Sea palace paid for by his friends, sometimes using public money.
Mr. Putin denied the Black Sea property was his, saying: “Nothing of what was indicated there as my property belongs either to me or to my relatives and never has belonged (to us). Never.”
The president, who avoids mentioning Mr. Navalny by name, also told the students that people should not use illegal protest action to further their own political interests.
“Everyone has the right to express their point of view within the framework provided by the law. Anything outside the law is not just counter-productive, but dangerous,” he said.
He cited upheaval caused by the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as examples of how illegal action could cause people misery and should therefore be avoided.