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Putin's leading rival arrested amid huge Russia protests

Alexei Navalny and his Foundation for Fighting Corruption had called for the protests. Credit: AP

Russia's leading opposition figure has been arrested as Russia witnessed the biggest sign of public unrest in five years.

Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who is leading the opposition to Vladimir Putin, was held as he headed towards a banned protest attended by thousands of his supporters in Moscow's Pushkin Square.

Violence and arrests followed as crowds of hundreds or thousands turned out in Russia's biggest cities. Credit: AP

Hundreds of thousands have defied authorities to demonstrate across the country despite the police warning they will not be responsible for "negative consequences".

The public unrest was the largest since the massive 2011-12 demonstrations that followed a fraud-tainted parliamentary election.

A detained woman was among Alexei Navalny's supporters to be held in a police van. Credit: AP

Mr Navalny was last month found guilty of embezzlement in a retrial of a 2013 fraud case.

The decision effectively derailed his plan to run for president next year.


Russia's President Vladimir Putin: Syria ceasefire agreed

Vladimir Putin Credit: PA

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has said a ceasefire in Syria has been agreed between government and rebel forces, with Russia and Turkey acting as guarantors.

Speaking at a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Putin said that three documents which open the way for solving the Syria crisis were signed earlier on Thursday.

The documents signed are a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition, measures to monitor the ceasefire deal and a statement on the readiness to start peace talks to settle the Syrian crisis, he added.

In a statement carried by state news agency SANA on Thursday, the Syrian military command said it "declares a comprehensive nationwide cessation of hostilities as of midnight".

President Putin said that a number of documents had been signed by both sides and the nationwide end to fighting will begin from Friday.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the truce will include 62,000 fighters across the country.

Russia is a key ally of Assad, while Turkey backs the opposition.

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