The demonstrations began in Vladivostok, in Russia’s far east, and spread to the west as the day progressed. Videos posted on social media showed crowds of people gathering in Vladivostok and a number of cities across Siberia and central Russia.
One of the videos showed a small protest in the city of Yakutsk, with temperatures dropping to -53 ° C (-63 ° F) on Saturday.
The demonstrations have not received official government permission and the authorities have warned people not to attend.
Several of Navalny’s allies were arrested this week for inciting the protests, including his spokesman Kira Yarmisch, Anti-Corruption Foundation investigator Georgy Alborov and opposition activist Lyubov Sobol.
Navalny’s Moscow office coordinator, Oleg Stepanov, was arrested on Saturday, according to a tweet from Navalny’s team in Moscow. A protest was scheduled to begin in the Russian capital at 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States of encouraging protests after the US Embassy in Russia posted an alert on its website advising American citizens to avoid demonstrations.
The ministry said in a tweet posted on Saturday that publishing information about the gatherings “is in line with Washington’s provocative policy to encourage protests in countries whose governments the United States considers unwanted.”
Under Russian law, a formal appeal to approve a protest must be submitted to local authorities at least 10 days before the event. Navalny was arrested just less than a week ago, so the organizers had little time to file an appeal.
The Russian internet regulator said on Thursday that it plans to fine major social networks, including Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, for “posting information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events.”
Fred Pletgen, Zahra Allah, and Anna Chernova of CNN in Moscow contributed to this report.