Russia arrests over 3000 amid unprecedented pro-Navalny protests...

Dhaka, Saturday   06 March 2021

Russia arrests over 3000 amid unprecedented pro-Navalny protests

 International Desk

 Published: 02:34 PM, 24 January 2021  

Russia arrests over 3000 amid unprecedented pro-Navalny protests

Russia arrests over 3000 amid unprecedented pro-Navalny protests

Security forces detained more than 3,000 people and violently broke up rallies across Russia as tens of thousands of protesters ignored extreme cold and police warnings to demand the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Navalny had called on his supporters to protest on Saturday after being arrested last weekend as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned with a nerve agent that he says was applied to his underpants by state security agents in August.

Authorities had warned people to stay away from the protests, saying they risked catching COVID-19 as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorised event. But protesters defied the ban and bitter cold and turned out in force in more than 60 Russian cities.

The OVD-Info protest monitor group said at least 3,060 people – including 1,099 in the capital, Moscow and 386 in St Petersburg – had been detained across Russia, a number likely to rise.

In central Moscow, where an estimated tens of thousands of people had gathered in one of the biggest unauthorised rallies for years, police were seen detaining people, bundling them into nearby vans. The authorities said just some 4,000 people had shown up.

“There were violent clashes with the police using their batons to beat them down,” Al Jazeera’s Aleksandra Godfroid, reporting from Moscow, said.

Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said on social media she was detained at the rally and later released. Lyubov Sobol, a prominent aide of Navalny and lawyer, was also among those held.

Video footage from Vladivostok showed riot police chasing a group of protesters down the street, while demonstrators in Khabarovsk, braving temperatures of about -14C (7F), chanted “Shame!” and “Bandits!”

Police in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world and where the temperature was -52C (-61.6 Fahrenheit) on Saturday, grabbed a protester by his arms and legs and dragged him into a van, video footage from the scene showed.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Anna Matveeva, a researcher at King’s College London, underlined the importance of the wide geographic reach of Saturday’s protests.

“The police [are] brutal; there is nothing new about it,” Matveeva told Al Jazeera.

“But the fact that the geography of protests has spread all the way from Moscow to western Russia and also in northern states … we are seeing a consistent number of people coming out, knowing that they might be beaten, that they might be detained, that they will have criminal records. And notwithstanding that, people are [still] coming out.”