Wednesday April 21, 2021
Demonstrations across Russia
Police arrest thousands
Tens of thousands of people take to the streets all over Russia. They demand “Freedom for Navalny!” – and for Russia. The police arrest numerous demonstrators, and Nawalny’s close associates are also in custody. Putin, meanwhile, warns western countries against crossing the “red line”.
More than 1,000 people were arrested in Russia during demonstrations in support of the Kremlin opponent, Alexei Navalny, who was imprisoned in the prison camp. The human rights portal ovdinfo.org listed over 1,000 arrests in more than 80 cities in the early evening, including more than 300 in St. Petersburg alone. Despite threats from the authorities, people shouted to tens of thousands “Freedom for Navalny!” and demanded medical help for the 44-year-old who was seriously ill in custody. There have been isolated reports of police violence against the peaceful demonstrators.
Navalny has been on hunger strike for three weeks to seek treatment from an independent doctor. He complains of back pain and paralysis in the limbs. According to the Russian prison system, he is being treated in an infirmary in the prison camp. The authorities see no danger to his life.
Navalny’s wife Julia, his brother Oleg and his mother also took part in the illegal actions in Moscow. Navalny’s close associates Lyubov Sobol and his spokeswoman Kira Jarmysch were arrested hours before the protests. Jarmysch was held in a holding cell for ten days, she said. The reason for the arrests was not initially clear.
The authorities had warned against participating in the protests. In the Russian capital, tens of thousands of people were on their feet in the center to support Navalny, independent observers said. Cars drove past the demonstrators with honking horns in support. Many protesters said they had overcome their fear and wanted to stand up for Navalny. The police said there were 6,000 participants.
As in many cities in the country, people called for the resignation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in chants. They shouted “Putin – wor!” and “Putin, uchodi!” (German: Putin is a thief “,” Putin, get away! “). They accuse the Kremlin chief of suppressing dissenters and corruption and shouted” Freedom! Freedom!”.
Brutal crackdown in St. Petersburg
The protests began in the largest country in the world in terms of area, in the far east on the Pacific coast. Thousands took to the streets in Siberia too. In St. Petersburg, the hometown of the Kremlin chief, many people shouted “Putin is a murderer!”, “Freedom for political prisoners!” and “A doctor for Navalny!”, as the Internet television station Doschd showed. According to reports by the channel, uniformed men also used stun guns against peaceful demonstrators. In Moscow, unlike the protests in winter, the security forces initially behaved a little more cautiously, a reporter from the German press agency reported on site.
Navalny blames Putin for the assassination attempt on him last August when he was poisoned with the chemical warfare agent Novichok in Siberia. The President rejects the allegations. The Kremlin rejects international criticism of its dealings with Navalny as improper interference in Russia’s internal affairs. The presidential administration describes itself as not responsible for the medical treatment of the opposition and refers to the penal system, which Nawalny’s condition classified as “satisfactory”.
In Geneva, however, experts from the UN Human Rights Council demanded that Navalny be flown abroad for treatment in view of the “serious threat” to his health. They recalled that the politician was treated in Germany after the assassination attempt. In view of the criticism from abroad, Putin warns of an escalation of the situation: “I hope no one gets the idea to cross the red line,” he told MPs and high-ranking government officials. Exceeding it would cause a “harsh” reaction.