More than 3,300 arrested across Russia as protests swell for jailed opposition leader Navalny

© Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Russian special police officers clash with protesters during a rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Jan. 23.

MOSCOW —More than 3,300 people were arrested Saturday in protests spanning nearly 70 cities and towns across Russia calling for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny — a massive show of defiance against President Vladimir Putin and his widening crackdowns against challenges to his power.

Among the detained was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, and many heads of Navalny’s regional offices. It was the largest number of protesters taken into custody in a day since the Russian rights group OVD-Info began monitoring demonstrations in 2011.

[Gallery: Images from a day of protest across Russia]

The rallies — from Russia’s Far East to central Moscow — came less than a week after Navalny returned from Germany, where he recovered from a nerve agent poisoning in August during a trip to Siberia. Navalny was arrested shortly after stepping off the plane.

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