Russia arrests 4, 000 Navalny supporters

People attend a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg, Russia.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Police detained more than 4,000 people across Russia and blocked off the centre of Moscow Sunday in a massive clampdown on protests demanding the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Thousands of protesters defied government warnings to rally from Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg in a second weekend of mass demonstrations over the arrest of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic.

Mr. Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport in mid-January after flying back to Russia from Germany where he was recovering from an August poisoning he blames on the Kremlin.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner is being held in a Moscow detention centre and faces years of potential jail time in several different criminal cases, despite calls from protesters and Western governments for his release.

In moves not seen in years in Moscow, authorities locked down the centre of the capital on Sunday, with hundreds of police lining the streets, central Metro stations closed and the movements of pedestrians restricted.

Protesters, who had hoped to gather outside the headquarters of the FSB security service, were instead scattered to various parts of the city as organisers made last-minute changes in locations.

AFP journalists saw dozens of protesters detained and taken into police vans. It was unclear amid the chaos how many people took part in the demonstration.

Independent monitor OVD-Info said at least 4,027 people had been detained across the country, after reporting more than 4,000 detentions during similar protests last Saturday.

It said 1,167 were detained in Moscow and 862 in Saint Petersburg, as well as at least 82 journalists across the country.

The Russian Union of Journalists said around 35 people working for media outlets were also detained on Sunday.

U.S. slams ‘harsh tactics’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Twitter condemned “the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry hit back, accusing the U.S. of “gross interference” in its affairs and of using “online platforms controlled by Washington” to promote the protests.

Hundreds marched through the centre of Moscow chanting “Freedom!” and “Putin is a thief!” before arriving outside Matrosskaya Tishina prison where Navalny was being held.

Several dozen were detained at the prison, with police chasing down protesters in the snow outside the complex.

Local politician and Navalny ally Helga Pirogova told AFP that Sunday’s protest in Novosibirsk was potentially bigger than the week before.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 2:42:59 PM |

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