Who Is Alexei Navalny? Putin's Chief Critic Arrested Ahead of Massive Protests Across Russia

Alexei Navalny
Russian leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny meets with his supporters as part of his presidential election campaign rally in Tula, Russia, May 27, 2017. Evgeny Feldman/This is Navalny Project/Handout via Reuters

The chief critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was arrested at his Moscow home Monday ahead of a series of nationwide anti-corruption protests. Alexei Navalny had earlier announced a change in the location for the rally in Moscow, switching it to an unauthorized site. Once the protest got underway, more than 100 people were reported arrested in the Russian capital and a similar number in St. Petersburg.

Related: Putin-Critic Navalny to March on Kremlin as Moscow Mayor Issues Warning

Navalny had been due to attend the demonstration in Moscow, but his wife, Yulia, posted a photo of him being detained by police at his home. "Alexei has been arrested in the entrance to our block of flats," Yuliya Navalnaya wrote on Twitter. "Our plans haven't changed."

С Днём России! pic.twitter.com/CkfZXT6EKo

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) June 12, 2017

Привет. Это Юля Навальная. Всех с праздником. Алексея задержали в подъезде дома. Он просил передать, что планы не меняются: Тверская.

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) June 12, 2017

Navalny said he switched the location of the rally because authorities refused to allow him to install sound equipment at the original location as had been agreed, according to The Moscow Times. Here's what to know about the Russian opposition leader.

Navalny has been arrested before

Being detained by police is nothing new for Navalny. Ahead of a previous round of nationwide protests on March 26, Navalny was arrested, along with more than 1,000 others, and sentenced to 15 days in prison. On that occasion, the protest was against alleged corruption carried out by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Again, the protests were unsanctioned by police but Navalny claimed the charges were politically motivated. Navalny has also suffered for his campaign by twice being attacked with a green antiseptic dye.

What is Navalny protesting?

Navalny established the Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2011, seeking to expose financial mishandling within the Kremlin. Medvedev, formerly Russia's president when Putin was barred from running for a third consecutive term in 2008, has been one of Navalny's chief targets and was the subject of his 2017 documentary film He is Not Dimon to You. In the film, Medvedev was accused of benefiting from the transfer of at least $1.2 billion in funds and assets to organizations controlled by people close to the Putin ally.

He has his own YouTube channel

Navalny's savvy use of online media has been key to side-stepping state media and getting his message out. At the forefront of that is his YouTube channel, which has over one million subscribers. The 50-minute film on Medvedev attracted over 22 million views. The 41-year-old is also the star of Navalny Live, a live-streaming companion to his YouTube channel.

He intends to run for president

Navalny ran in the Moscow mayoral election in 2013 and came second in the voting, with 27 percent. He now has his sights on an even bigger target and has announced his intention to run in the 2018 presidential election, when Putin is widely expected to run for and win another term. Despite Navalny's plans, it is unlikely that he will be able to stand for election. A Moscow court in March upheld a ruling that a previous conviction for embezzlement barred him from appearing on the ballot. The European Court of Human Rights has called the case against him "arbitrary."