The wife of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested in Moscow during protests for her husband’s release. “Please excuse the poor picture quality,” wrote Julia Navalnaja on Saturday about a photo she published on the Instagram online service. It shows her in a police prisoner van in the Russian capital.
According to civil rights activists, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in the protests across Russia. The organization OWD counted the highest number of arrests by Saturday afternoon in the capital Moscow (300) and in St. Petersburg (162). Reporters from the German Press Agency reported on the central Pushkin Square in Moscow of uniformed men who carried demonstrators to prisoner transports or took them away. Navalny’s closest colleague, the lawyer Lyubow Sobol, was also arrested.
There were many young people and middle-class people among the thousands of protesters in Moscow. Activists and journalists complained that the internet was being throttled. Videos of security forces who attacked protesters with batons circulated on social networks.
Navalny’s supporters called for protests in more than 90 Russian cities this Saturday. They are demanding the release of the opposition activist, who was sentenced to 30 days in prison on Monday in a controversial urgent procedure. Navalny is said to have violated reporting requirements in an earlier criminal case while he was recovering from a poison attack in Germany. The 44-year-old and his team see the judiciary’s actions as politically motivated.
Activists in the city of Khabarovsk also posted videos of police officers beating demonstrators and putting them in prisoner trucks on Saturday. Videos of the police’s brutal actions can also be seen on Twitter. A ZDF journalist shared recordings from Moscow in which a police officer is holding a child.
In the cities of Vladivostok and Irkutsk, hundreds of demonstrators gathered despite freezing temperatures. They chanted “We are the power” and “Putin is a liar”.
“Freedom for Alexej Navalny!”
Prominent Russian cultural workers, including musicians, authors and actors, had previously shown solidarity with the imprisoned Kremlin opponent in a video. The writer Dmitri Gluchowski (Dmitry Glukhovsky), who is also known in Germany, said that there are moments in life when silence is out of place.
The musicians from Noize MC, Anacondaz and the internationally known director Witali Manski also called in the clip “Freedom for Alexej Navalny!” To not watch indifferently when people are politically persecuted and imprisoned for no reason.
“You have to fight for freedom!” Said Manski. The more frequent and the bigger the protests, the sooner Navalny will be free again, said artist Nadeschda Tolokonnikova from the punk band Pussy Riot. She herself was in the penal camp after taking part in a protest against Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin in a church.
Navalny was arrested in Moscow last Sunday immediately after his return from Germany. In Berlin, the 44-year-old was treated after a poison attack in August, for which the opposition blames the Kremlin.
Navalny accuses the secret service of the attack
According to laboratory results in Germany, France and Sweden, which the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed, Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group. Navalny accuses the Russian secret service FSB of being behind his poisoning and accuses Putin of having commissioned the assassination attempt. The Russian government denies any involvement in the attack on Navalny.
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After his arrest, Navalny called for nationwide protests for his release. The police announced a crackdown on the protest participants. The Russian Investigative Committee said on Friday that it was investigating the call for unauthorized protests.
Navalny’s close ally Leonid Volkov told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that street protests were “the only means in Russia to get someone out of prison”. It has also happened that Russian opposition activists have been poisoned twice in a row. Therefore “the only protection” for Navalny is “maximum visibility and support in the population”.
Kremlin calls the allegations “nonsense” and “lie”
At the beginning of the week, Nawalny’s team published an unveiling video entitled “A Palace for Putin”, which is supposed to prove that the president had a huge estate built on the Black Sea with bribes. The almost two-hour film had more than 65 million views on Youtube after a few days. The Kremlin describes the allegations as “nonsense” and “lies”. (AFP, dpa)