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More than 1,600 arrested in Marches in support of Navalny

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Globe Live Media, Sunday, January 31, 2021

Thousands of people took to the streets across Russia on Sunday to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, continuing a wave of marches in the country that has rocked the Kremlin. More than 1,600 people were detained by police, according to a monitoring group.

Authorities made a huge display to stem the tide of demonstrations, after tens of thousands of people marched last weekend across the country in the largest and most widespread display of discontent the country has seen in years.

However, despite the threat of prison terms, warnings in social media groups and large displays of riot police, protests again flooded many cities on Sunday.

Navalny, 44, is an anti-corruption investigator and the best-known critic of the president, Vladimir Putin. He was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent that he attributes to the Kremlin. The Russian authorities have rejected the accusations. He was arrested for an alleged breach of the conditions of his probation by failing to show up for appointments with the authorities while he was recovering in Germany.

Police had so far detained more than 1,600 protesters in many cities across Russia’s 11 time zones, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests.

Unprecedented security measures were imposed in central Moscow, such as the closure of several metro stations near the Kremlin, cuts to bus routes and closure orders for restaurants and shops.

Navalny’s team called a protest on Sunday in Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, where the headquarters of the Federal Security Service are located, to which Navalny attributes his poisoning. After police agreed on the area around the plaza, the protest moved to another central plaza a mile away. There was also a large police deployment there, and the agents selected people at random who were detained and transferred to police buses. At least 100 people were arrested.

But hundreds of other people marched through the city center, chanting, “Putin, resign!” and “Putin, thief!” Alluding to a luxurious estate in the Black Sea supposedly built for the president, and that appeared in a popular video published by Navalny’s team.

Some later went to Matrosskaya Tishina Prison, where Navalny is being held, but found riot police teams that evicted them and detained dozens of people.

More than 300 people were detained in Moscow, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who joined the protest.

The city of Novosibirsk, in eastern Siberia, had one of the largest marches, in which thousands of attendees. Some 90 people were arrested.

Some 2,000 people marched through the country’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg, and occasional altercations broke out when protesters repelled police officers trying to make arrests.

In the remote eastern port city of Vladivostok, more than 100 people were detained after protesters danced on the ice and marched through the urban center.

As part of the authorities’ efforts to block the protests, several Navalny activists and collaborators have been jailed across the country. His brother Oleg, his prominent collaborator Lyubov Sobol and three other people were placed under house arrest on Friday, charged with alleged violations of coronavirus restrictions during protests last week.

The prosecution also demanded that social media platforms block calls for protests.

The Interior Ministry has issued harsh warnings to the public not to join the protests, stating that participants could be accused of participating in mass riots, which can carry up to eight years in prison. The penalties can go up to 15 years for those accused of participating in violence against the police.

Almost 4,000 people, according to reports, were detained in the January 23 demonstrations in more than 100 cities calling for Navalny’s release. Some received fines or jail time. About 20 were charged with assaulting the police and were facing criminal charges.

Right after Navalny’s arrest, his team posted a two-hour video on their YouTube channel of a luxurious Black Sea residence allegedly built for Putin. The video has been viewed more than 100 million times, helping stoke discontent and sparking a barrage of sarcastic jokes online amid the economic crisis.

Protesters in Moscow chanted “Water Disco!”, Alluding to one of the luxurious amenities installed in the residence, which also includes a casino and a hookah room equipped for watching pole dancing.

Putin has said that neither he nor any of his close relatives own the estate. Construction mogul Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s longtime confidant and occasional judo training rival, said on Saturday that he owned the property.

Navalny fell into a coma on August 20 on an internal flight from Siberia to Moscow. Two days later he was transferred to a hospital in Berlin. Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, as well as tests conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, concluded that he had been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok. Russian authorities have refused to open a full criminal investigation, citing a lack of evidence that he was poisoned.

When he returned to Russia in January, Navalny was jailed for 30 days after the Russian prison service alleged that he had violated the terms of his suspended sentence for a money laundering conviction that he has rejected, calling it political retaliation.

A Moscow court on Thursday rejected his appeal calling for his release. Another hearing is held next week that could turn his 3½-year suspended sentence into one he must serve in prison.

Ben Oakley
Ben Oakley is the guy you can really trust when it comes to Mainstream News. Whether it is something happening at the Wall Street of New York City or inside the White House in Washington, D.C., no one can cover mainstream news like Ben. Get a daily dose of Trustworthy News by Ben Oakley, only at Globe Live Media.