Violence against Navalny supporters: Police arrest 4,000 demonstrators

Violence against Navalny supporters
Police arrest 4,000 demonstrators

For the second weekend in a row, people across Russia take to the streets. The police stop them – according to human rights activists with massive violence. Thousands of people are arrested. There is sharp criticism of the procedure from abroad.

According to human rights activists, more than 4,000 people were arrested during renewed mass protests in Russia against the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The police had taken about as many into custody during the demonstrations a week ago. According to the Owd-Info portal, well over 1,000 demonstrators were arrested in the capital Moscow alone, including Navalny's wife Julia Navalnaya, who was only released in the evening. The portal for St. Petersburg in the north of the country listed more than 860 arrests. Arrests were registered in more than 50 cities.

Human rights activists again criticized the massive police violence against peaceful demonstrators. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the security forces used stun guns. In addition, 31 people in the capital were locked in a prisoner transport that was much too narrow. In Kazan, about 700 kilometers east of Moscow, arrested students had to take off their underwear and hand in their cell phones and their belongings.

A train with thousands of people pulled to Moscow's number one remand prison – popularly known as the Sailor Silence. Navalny is in custody there. The security forces blocked the access to the prison. The place was considered the most heavily guarded in Moscow. The authorities had arrested prominent representatives of Nawalny's team in advance. Many journalists were also taken into custody.

According to Nawalny's team, there were actions in around 100 cities across the country for the opposition to be released. But people also protested against corruption, the arbitrariness of the judiciary and the suppression of dissenters under President Vladimir Putin. Navalny had been arrested at a Moscow airport exactly two weeks ago immediately after his return from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poison attack for five months. The 44-year-old blames President Vladimir Putin and the domestic secret service FSB for the crime. Putin and the FSB rejected that.

Navalny supporters also protested against his imprisonment in Berlin. According to the police, there was a smaller and a larger demonstration, the number of participants was not given. In one action, a demonstrator disguised himself as President Vladimir Putin was shown behind bars – this was meant as a demand to bring Putin to justice before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Freedom for Navalny was demanded on banners. The goal of the larger demo was the Russian Embassy on Unter den Linden.

US Secretary of State is sharply critical

The US government sharply criticized the Russian authorities' crackdown on demonstrators. "The US condemns the continued use of brutal tactics against peaceful demonstrators and journalists by the Russian authorities for the second week in a row," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Twitter.

"We renew our call to Russia to release those imprisoned for exercising their human rights, including Alexei Navalny," the Foreign Office chief continued.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the US of interfering in internal affairs. The US embassy in Moscow had previously listed exact meeting points and times for demonstrations. Washington is promoting unauthorized protests and wants to try to keep Russia "in check," the ministry wrote on Facebook.

The Czech government also condemned the crackdown on the Russian authorities. With the violent suppression of the opposition and freedom of speech, Russia is violating its own obligation to respect human rights, said Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, according to the CTK agency. His country will plead within the EU to impose sanctions on certain responsible persons.