Actions in support of Navalny: international context
Russian police use batons, detain over 1,000 at Navalny rally
US strongly condemned the tactics used by the Russian authorities against demonstrators and journalists
Tens of thousands of supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny took to the streets of Russian cities on Saturday, despite threats of arrest from the authorities.
Navalny announced protests after he was taken into custody on his return to Russia from Germany, where he was receiving treatment after a poisoning in August that nearly proved fatal to him.
OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group, reported that as of Saturday evening, about 3,200 people had been detained, including Navalny’s wife Yulia and his assistant, politician Lyubov Sobol. Several dozen journalists were also detained..
Later, Radio Liberty reported more than 3.5 thousand detainees.
Supporters of Navalny demanded his immediate release, despite police attempts to disperse the protests declared illegal.
Most of the protesters looked peaceful. Nevertheless, in the evening a group of demonstrators threw snowballs at OMON officers and a car belonging to the FSB. The driver reportedly sustained an eye injury.
Throughout the day, eyewitnesses posted videos in which police brutally detained demonstrators, in some cases beating them with truncheons.
The US strongly condemns the arrests and the use of “harsh tactics against demonstrators and journalists … in cities across Russia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Sunday..
Violation of the rights of Russians to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, the arrest of Navalny and the suppression of protests “are alarming signs of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,” the statement said..
The US calls on the Russian authorities to “release all those detained for the exercise of universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release” of Navalny, Price said..
A State Department spokesman added that the US urges Russia to “fully cooperate with the international community in investigating the poisoning” of a critic of the Kremlin and “to credibly explain the use of chemical weapons on its territory.”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that US attempts to “actually incite radical elements” through social media will have negative consequences for bilateral relations..
“The leadership of the US Embassy will have a serious conversation at the Russian Foreign Ministry,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement..
Navalny’s national status
The massive nature of the rallies was further evidence that Navalny has strengthened his status as a figure of national importance, despite the almost complete ban on coverage of his activities in state media. Navalny’s popularity has grown in large part thanks to a skilful social media campaign and investigations that allegedly expose corruption among the Kremlin elite..
A few days ago, when Navalny was already taken into custody, his team published a large video of a luxurious palace, allegedly built secretly for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite rebuttals to the credibility of the Kremlin investigation, the film quickly garnered 70 million views..
Before Saturday’s rallies, the police detained the main associates of Navalny in regional offices, who were sentenced to arrests for a term of 9 to 28 days. Nevertheless, actions of various sizes were held throughout the country..
In St. Petersburg, demonstrators broke through the police cordon, and thousands of people took to Nevsky Prospekt. In Khabarovsk, several thousand people tried to walk along the central street of the city, but they were stopped by riot police. Similar scenes were played out in cities such as Irkutsk, Omsk, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok. Even in Yakutsk, despite the temperature of -50, several hundred people went to a protest in the central square.
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