Protests in Russia: for Navalny and against Putin

Navalny protests: Russian police arrest protesters against Putin

Protests in Russia: for Navalny and against Putin

Thousands of people detained during Saturday rally in support of opposition politician

Saturday’s rally in support of Alexei Navalny has acquired a truly nationwide scale. It went from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Far East and Siberia. Moreover, in a number of cities, protest events have become the most massive in recent years..

In Chita, judging by the information on social networks, the police refused to disperse the crowd, and the protesters accompanied them with applause and exclamations: “Well done!” In Saratov, law enforcement agencies also did not intervene in what was happening. In other cities, on the contrary, the security forces acted harshly, laid people face down right on the streets before escorting them to police wagons..

In Moscow, according to Reuters, the number of protesters was at least 40 thousand people. Judging by the photographs taken from the rooftops of high-rise buildings, Tverskaya Street was filled with people, from the Belorusskaya metro station to Manezhnaya Square. On Pushkin Square, the apple had nowhere to fall.

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The relatively peaceful confrontation in the capital ended with the beating of demonstrators on Strastnoy Boulevard after the security forces forced them out of Pushkin Square. There are victims among the protesters. Nevertheless, some of the protesters continued to move towards the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center, where Navalny is under arrest..

Moscow, January 23

According to OVD-Info, more than two thousand three hundred people have been detained throughout Russia, of which about 900 are in Moscow, and these figures may be inaccurate, since the information is received with a delay. Actually, in the capital, people began to be detained a few days before the start of the action..

About two dozen journalists were also detained on Saturday, some of them were physically injured..

Action in support of Alexei Navalny in Moscow

From the capital’s Pushkin Square, among others, Navalny’s wife, Yulia, was taken away in a paddy wagon. She was later released.

Action in support of Alexei Navalny in Prague

Eyewitnesses of the events shared their impressions of what they saw in Moscow with the Russian service of the Voice of America.

According to the testimony of an opposition politician, ex-Minister of Economy of Russia Andrei Nechaev, it was clearly seen that the protesters in the capital are really responsible people who value freedom, and not state employees driven away by command from above..

At the same time, in his opinion, the overwhelming majority came out not so much for Alexei Navalny, but rather against the openly intensifying repressive actions of the Russian authorities, which manifested themselves, including in the case of Alexei.

“However, Moscow has always been active in this regard,” he added. – However, I believe that the Kremlin is unpleasantly surprised by the scale of the action as a whole, by the fact that many people came out in the regions. I think this is an unpleasant surprise for the authorities. After all, the state propaganda was largely based on the fact that the protests against the arrest of Navalny were a riot of overwhelmed Muscovites. “.

At the same time, as Andrei Nechaev sees it, this will not affect the fate of Navalny in any way. “Because the authorities have largely driven themselves into a corner in this story,” he explained. – They clearly hoped that Alexei would not come to Russia. But he still came and confused all the cards for them. After that, they could not help detaining him, and having detained him, they could not but jail him. Most of all, the Kremlin fears that they will be suspected of showing weakness. “.

And to go for some kind of indulgence in connection with mass protests will be in the minds of the authorities just a manifestation of weakness, which, due to its mentality, considers it unacceptable, the politician summed up.

Professor of the Moscow Economic Institute, Doctor of Philosophy Igor Chubais admitted that he did not expect such an influx of protesters. According to him, he hoped that at most 15 thousand people would come out..

“But this is the case when it’s nice to be wrong,” he said. – I think it was a kind of vote against Putin. The arrest of Navalny became a trigger for the indignation accumulated among the people to burst out. Navalny’s behavior undoubtedly evokes sympathy. He behaves courageously, heroically. But today the protest was not so much in support of him as against Putin. “.

The authorities are balancing on the edge of a knife, the professor stated. It seems to him that if they start planting today in hundreds, tomorrow many, many thousands will take to the streets..

“If, as a result, Navalny is still imprisoned for several years, then all this time passions will heat up, and protests will grow. Therefore, the authorities need to act between Scylla and Charybdis. They cannot act like the dictator of Lukashenka. Because Lukashenka has Moscow’s protection, and Moscow has no one to turn to for support, ”concluded Igor Chubais.

Many young people took to the streets in St. Petersburg

In St. Petersburg, the local authorities took care ahead of time to minimize the number of participants in the action in support of Alexei Navalny.

Announcement in high school on the eve of the rally in support of Navalny

Police and prosecutors began to come to civic activists and politicians of a democratic orientation with persistent exhortations to refrain from participating in the action on January 23 on Senate Square. As a result, even a joke arose: “Thank you for informing, you still go to the neighbors, otherwise they suddenly do not know!”.

And in educational institutions, announcements began to appear in which students were warned about the possible consequences of their participation in unauthorized rallies. In particular, on fines ranging from 100 rubles to 300,000 rubles, bringing to compulsory labor for up to 200 hours, or administrative arrest for up to 30 days. And as a result – “registration with the juvenile department”.

However, it seems that neither these preventive measures, nor the closure of the metro station closest to Senate Square, nor the police patrols posted on the approaches to the gathering place of the protesters, prevented the gathering of a record number of participants in the rally of solidarity with Alexei Navalny for the past several years..

Participants of the action on Nevsky Prospect

Member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society Development Natalia Evdokimova in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America, she said that she herself came to Senate Square, where she stood “under the tail of the Bronze Horseman’s horse.”.

Here she, in particular, met with the film director Alexander Sokurov. The human rights activist immediately made a reservation that she personally had not seen any excesses: “There were no arrests in my presence.” And she added: “I was pleased that there were a lot of young people. Not schoolchildren, but those who are from 20 to 30 years old. They came despite all the provocations and the fact that there was a real threat that the police would grab them and put them on buses. ” According to Evdokimova, the police were prevented from taking harsh actions by a large number of protesters..

OMON and Rosgvardia vehicles block the passage of a column of protesters along Nevsky Prospekt

However, later, when the protesters began to move from Senate Square towards Nevsky Prospekt, and then dispersed: some to Gostiny Dvor, some to the Field of Mars, detentions began, and with the use of rubber truncheons. According to OVD-info, by 20:30 Moscow time, the number of detainees was 309 people.

However, it seems that neither the blocking of Nevsky Prospekt by police buses, nor the forceful methods of detention used by the riot police, did not frighten the protesters. Above the column of demonstrators, chants were heard every now and then: “Let go!”, “Putin is a thief!”, “Freedom”, “We don’t need a tsar!”, “31st article”.

One of the few posters

Summarizing her comment, Natalia Evdokimova stressed that Saturday’s action of solidarity was not only not sanctioned by the authorities, but its participants did not submit an application to Smolny. “This means that there were no formal organizers and no one to be held accountable for the calls to come to Senate Square. And secondly, the fact that so many people came, despite the restrictive measures associated with the pandemic and the threats that were distributed on television, means that our people have an understanding that the detention of Alexei Navalny was not only unjust, but also illegal, ” – stressed member of the HRC Natalia Evdokimova.

  • Victor Vladimirov

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