Putin calls pro-Navalny marches illegal, new protest set for Sunday

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned weekend protests demanding the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as dangerous and illegal, as the opposition politician's allies said they planned a similar protest for Sunday.

Police detained more than 3,700 people and used force to break up rallies across Russia on Saturday as tens of thousands of protesters ignored extreme cold and police warnings to demand Navalny be freed from jail where he is serving out a 30-day stint for alleged parole violations he denies.

Putin, who avoids mentioning Navalny by name, told students on Monday that nobody should 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," said Putin.

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 misery to people and should therefore best be avoided.

As Putin was speaking, Leonid Volkov, a close ally of Navalny currently outside Russia, announced plans for a new protest this Sunday that would once again ask the authorities to free Navalny.

Putin, in a rare public rebuttal of something Navalny has accused him of, on Monday rejected an accusation made in a video last week that has since gained more than 86 million views on YouTube.

Navalny alleged in it that Putin owned an opulent Black Sea palace that the Russian leader's friends had paid for, sometimes using public money.

"I haven't watched the film, simply because I don't have the free time to watch such information, but I scrolled through video compilations," Putin said.

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