Russia has issued an arrest warrant that covers a swath of other former Soviet republics for one of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s closest allies

A bearded man speaks to two female journalists in a room.

Russia has issued an arrest warrant that covers a swath of other former Soviet republics for one of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s closest allies, a Moscow court said.

Key points:

  • Mr Volkov has called for protesters to flood social media with images in which they use lights and candles to make heart shapes
  • A Moscow court said Mr Volkov would be detained for two months
  • Mr Volkov is in Lithuania, which is not a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of former Soviet republics, including Russia

Leonid Volkov, who oversees Mr Navalny’s regional headquarters, has angered the authorities by organising anti-Kremlin protests from his base in Lithuania, demanding the release of Mr Navalny, who was detained last month.

He has urged Russians to gather near their homes for a brief Valentine’s Day protest this weekend, shining their mobile phone torches and lighting candles in heart shapes to flood social media.

He said the format, reminiscent of tactics used by the anti-government opposition in neighbouring Belarus, should help distance protesters from the police.

Supporters, he said, could then flood social media with images of the protest.

The idea for the candles was inspired by the heart sign Mr Navalny made to his wife in court as he was jailed, Mr Volkov said.

“Thought you were the only one in the whole big block who is not indifferent to what’s happening in the country? You’ll see that’s not the case,” he wrote in a post on the Telegram messenger.

“No OMON [riot police], no fear. Maybe it’ll seem like these 15 minutes will change nothing — but in fact they will change everything.”

Separately, an activist called on women to form a human chain on a pedestrianized street in central Moscow to show solidarity for Navalny’s wife Yulia and women who have been caught in the police crackdown over the protests.

Volkov detention sought over charge of inciting minors to take to streets

Moscow’s Basmanny Court said investigators had requested Mr Volkov be preventively detained after he was charged with inciting minors to take to the streets.

It said a warrant for his arrest had been issued across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of former Soviet republics, including Russia.

The court said Mr Volkov would be held in Russia for two months if and when he is detained or extradited.

Lithuania, where he is based, is not a member of the CIS.

Mr Volkov wrote on his Telegram channel that he would continue working and ignore the arrest warrant.

Volkov working from abroad to avoid reach of Russia

A man in a navy hoodie stares in the distance in a courtroom.

Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he violated the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning.(Reuters: Press Service of Moscow City Court/ Handout)

Mr Volkov left Russia in 2019 after the authorities opened a criminal case into suspected money laundering by Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which publishes high-impact investigations into what it says is official graft.

Mr Navalny has said he respected Mr Volkov’s decision to leave the country and that working from abroad could ultimately keep Mr Volkov out of reach of Russian law enforcement.

Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the jailing of Mr Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, who says he is being persecuted for political reasons.

Mr Navalny was arrested last month after returning to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned last summer in Siberia with what the West says was military-grade nerve agent Novichok.

Russia has questioned whether he was really poisoned and denied any involvement in what happened to him.

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Police detain Alexei Navalny on his arrival in Moscow.

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