The police arrested numerous people during protests by supporters of the imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Even before the official start of a demonstration in Moscow, the police took around 20 people into custody, as AFP reporters reported on Saturday.
According to the civil rights organization OWD, the security forces also broke up protests in eastern Russia and arrested around 200 people. The demonstrations were directed against the imprisonment of Navalny and against the Russian head of state Vladimir Putin.
Navalny called for the protests after his arrest last Sunday. Navalny’s supporters announced they would take to the streets in more than 90 Russian cities. The authorities are threatening heavy penalties for attending the unauthorized rallies.
In the city of Khabarovsk, which is seven hours ahead of the capital Moscow due to the time difference, activists posted videos of police officers beating demonstrators and putting them in prisoner trucks on Saturday.
The demonstration in Moscow began at 2 p.m. (12 p.m. CET). Videos of the police brutality can be seen on Twitter. A ZDF journalist shares recordings in which a police officer is holding a child.
Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered in the cities of Vladivostok and Irkutsk, despite freezing temperatures. They chanted “We are the power” and “Putin is a liar”.
Navalny’s wife wants to go to a demo in Moscow
In the past few days, numerous fellow campaigners had already been arrested, including his press spokeswoman Kira Jarmysch.
Navalny’s wife Julia had announced that she would participate in the demonstration in Moscow. The demonstrators wanted to meet the supporters at the centrally located Pushkin Square and from there to pull them to the Kremlin.
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. On Monday, a Russian court ruled that he was sentenced to 30 days in prison for violating suspended sentences.
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.
[Wenn Sie alle aktuellen Nachrichten live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere runderneuerte App, die Sie hier fürApple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
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”.
Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in prison on Monday in Moscow in a controversial urgent procedure. He is said to have violated registration requirements in previous criminal proceedings while he was recovering from the attack in Germany. He faces further trials and many years in prison. (AFP, dpa)