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Russian Protesters Demand Alexei Navalny's Release From Prison

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Over the weekend, people in towns and cities across Russia turned out for protests. They were demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. NPR's Lucian Kim has more from Moscow.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Across their vast country, from Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean to Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, Russians took to the streets Saturday.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Russian).

KIM: Freedom, they chanted - freedom for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and freedom for their country after more than 20 years of Vladimir Putin's rule. At the Moscow protest, I met Sergei Baradynko (ph), an actor who'd come out with his wife, Yana, and their 3-year-old son, who was perched on Sergei's shoulders.

SERGEI BARADYNKO: (Speaking Russian).

YANA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: "This is the voice of the people," Sergei said. "Unfortunately, we don't have any other way of expressing ourselves." Yana said she still hopes something good will happen and that they want to know the truth about what's happening in their country.

By the end of the protests, activists were reporting more than 3,700 people had been detained nationwide, with more than a third of arrests in Moscow. The Kremlin had warned Russians not to attend the rallies and downplayed the turnout. Yulia Latynina, a political commentator, said on her weekly radio show that Navalny's life hangs in the balance.

YULIA LATYNINA: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: She said only street protests in Russia and external pressure from the United States and Europe will save Alexei Navalny. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.