Putin foe Navalny detained and released as protests spread across Russian Federation

They are calling on voters to boycott what they say is a rigged presidential election on March 18th which Vladimir Putin is predicted to win easily.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained after joining a protest in Moscow following an earlier police raid on his offices Sunday.

Police broke into Navalny's headquarters in Moscow on Sunday morning, questioning supporters and attempting to disrupt a live online broadcast of the protests. Video posted on Mr Navalny's official Twitter account on Sunday showed him being bundled into a police bus. "This doesn't mean anything. you didn't come out for me, but for your future".

The charismatic politician, who is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, had earlier called for rallies across the country to boycott the upcoming presidential election in March.

About 4,000 people turned up for the unsanctioned rally in Moscow, with many chanting "Down with the czar" and brandishing placards saying "Voters' strike".

Instead of focusing on just Moscow and St. Petersburg, Navalny's followers are looking to tap into the heartland of Russian Federation, going for industrial heartlands such as Izhevsk instead. The main rally is planned for 2 p.m.in central Moscow. At a meeting with top Moscow police officials, First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Gorovoi said that police will respect the right of citizens to hold public gatherings, as provided by the constitution and other legislation - but emphasized they would "absolutely toughly.prevent violations of these laws". A crowd of protesters was later allowed to walk down to Red Square. "We've already endured this for 18 years", Mr Navalny said in a video message ahead of the protests.

Six of Mr Navalny's supporters at the Moscow studio were detained, as well as around 16 protesters in other parts of Russian Federation, independent monitoring group OVD-info said.

Presidential elections are set to be held in Russian Federation in March this year.

Police unleashed a severe crackdown afterwards, arresting more than 1,000 people including schoolchildren.

Despite his arrest, Navalny called for the protests to continue.

But many protesters said Sunday authorities would not intimidate them.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, it is virtually certain that the election will hand Putin a new six-year term.