Thousands of supporters of opposition leader Alexey Navalny hit the streets of Moscow and other cities to protest his detention as President Putin vows "quick and tough" Russian response for its foes.
Call comes after Prague accused Russian secret services of orchestrating a fatal explosion on the Czech territory in 2014, making this the biggest row between Prague and Moscow since the end of Soviet domination of eastern Europe in 1989.
Meanwhile, Russian police detain several allies of Alexey Navalny and raided two of his regional offices, a day before his supporters plan to stage mass protests over his failing health amid a hunger strike.
In a growing spat between Russia and Czech Republic, Moscow on Sunday announced the expulsion of 20 Czech diplomats a day after Prague’s “unprecedented” decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats identified as secret agents.
Sentenced to two and a half years in prison for embezzlement, Navalny has been on a hunger strike to demand medical treatment for back pain and numbness in his hands and legs.
Russian Foreign Ministry says 20 employees of the Czech embassy in Moscow have been declared "persona non grata" and they must leave the country by the end of Monday.
Navalny's right-hand man Leonid Volkov says a massive rally is planned on Wednesday evening "not just about Kremlin critic's freedom, but his life" after his doctors said he could die any minute as his health deteriorates rapidly in prison.
The Czech Republic announced that it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats who it has identified as spies in a case related to a huge ammunition depot explosion in 2014.
The move comes a day after Washington announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what it says is interference by the Kremlin in US elections, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activities.
Ukraine's foreign minister says Moscow's actions and statements are aimed at escalating military tensions and undermining diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Alexey Navalny says he is taking legal action against Russian prison authorities because “they won’t give me my Quran. And it’s infuriating”. The Kremlin critic says he intended to study the book while serving time.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg urges Russia to end troop build-up around Ukraine and de-escalate tensions after a meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels.
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