More Than 5000 Arrests During Anti-Putin Protests

A protester arrested by the armed police in Moscow on Jan 31, 2021, is holding a poster that says: I am not afraid. Free Navalny. (AFP)




Russian opposition supporters demonstrated against leader Vladimir Putin in more than 100 Russian cities. The US Secretary of State accuses the authorities of "using brutal tactics".

Today more than 30 courts will sentence at least 700 participants of the protests in Moscow. The fast trials will also take place in more than 90 cities around Russia. The majority of the demonstrators will face the administrative courts that may sentence them either up to 30 days detention or at least a US $ 500 fine for breaching the pandemic regulations. But some protesters with criminal charges like resistance to the arrest may face up to 2 months arrest.

According to estimates by the civil rights portal OVD-Info, more than 5,000 people were arrested in the nationwide protests for his release and against corruption in the vicinity of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, more than 1,600 in Moscow alone and more than 1,100 in St. Petersburg.

According to human rights activists, more than 1000 people were taken into custody in Moscow, including Mr. Navalny's wife Ms. Yulia Navalnaya. "If we keep silent, they will get us tomorrow," she wrote on her Instagram profile before the arrest. Her husband has been in custody since arriving in Russia on January 17. In an improvised trial at a police station, he was sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment for violating reporting requirements from a previous trial. The opposition leader has been threatened with a prison sentence of several years.

The protests were not approved; the police broke them up, some of them violently. A photos showed the security forces carrying demonstrators, sometimes unconscious, into police buses.The center of the capital was previously cordoned off extensively, and many traffic routes were interrupted by the authorities. People took to the streets in more than 50 cities.

Mr. Navalny's supporters called for protests across the country for the second weekend in a row. Actions were planned in around 100 cities. The police called the demonstrations illegal.

Protests in other cities in Russia too

The demonstrators criticized the actions of the authorities against Mr. Navalny and demanded his release. Protesters also demanded liquidation of political censorship and the resignation of Mr. Putin. After the Moscow city center was sealed off, people gathered in various other parts of the capital. They shouted "Putin is a thief" and demanded "freedom".

Armed police are beating protester before the arrest in Sankt-Petersburg on Jan 31, 2021. (AFP)


The rallies had started in the Far East of Russia and Siberia. The activists reported at least 120 arrests from Vladivostok and 103 and 194 arrests from Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. In Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, in freezing temperatures of minus 20 degrees, at least 5,000 protesters took to the streets. It was one of the largest anti-government protests in recent years.

Photos from Kazan, about 700 kilometers east of Moscow, showed several demonstrators who had to lie in front of police officers on a house wall in the snow. 32 people were arrested in the city on the Volga. The Russian journalists' union initially spoke of 80 media representatives arrested across the country. They were taken into police custody even though they had press ID.

Police brutally beat the protesters leaving some unconscious. The OVD reported seven cases of hospitalisation that included broken ribs, hand and skull fractures.



Mr. Navalny called for protests from prison

The opposition leader himself had called for the new protests from his detention: "Nobody wants to live in a country where arbitrariness and corruption rule. We have the majority on our side." Next Tuesday, a court will decide whether a suspended sentence is being converted into a prison sentence. Mr. Navalny faces many years in prison.

Many of his supporters have already been tried. It was only on Friday that Navalny's brother Oleg, his colleague Lyubov Sobol and the doctor Anastassiya Vassilyeva were sentenced to two months of house arrest. During this time, they are banned from the Internet and unable to call for protests.

The investigators are also taking action against Internet platforms that have published calls for Navalny demonstrations. The media supervisory authority Roskomnadzor had already fined Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. In this context, the editor-in-chief of the critical Internet portal Mediazona, Sergei Smirnov, was arrested on Saturday. Media representatives reacted indignantly and criticized this as an attempt to "put new pressure on journalists in Russia".

Ms. Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, minutes before her arrest in Moscow on Jan 31, 2021. (YN)

 

More than 104 million people have seen the film A Palace for Putin, two thirds of them from Russia. The president later denied owning the estate. On Saturday, a longtime confidante of Putin, the oligarch Arkadiy Rotenberg, said it was his estate. However, Mr. Navalny had already pointed out in the video that the property, like other possessions of the president, was officially registered to friends and former colleagues. In the video, he called for protests for his release and against the corruption in Putin's environment, and thousands of people were arrested during protests last weekend.

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