Tens of thousands of people came out to protest in Russia to demand the release of Alexei Navalni who is in preventive prison since the beginning of the week. Our journalist, Galina Polonskaya, tells us from Moscow that temperatures of up to -50 degrees did not cool down the spirits on Saturday’s day.
“People from more than 90 cities across Russia took to the streets to support Alexey Navalni. Previously, the Kremlin had warned that unauthorized demonstrations were unacceptable. Here in Moscow, on Pushkinskaya Square, the arrests began almost immediately.”, relata Polonskaya.
So far more than 2,000 people have been detained during the demonstrations, according to data from the OVD-info portal, which specializes in monitoring arrests in the country.
After several hours in detention, Navalni’s wife was released, police authorities reported. Yulia Navalnaya was arrested for participating in the Moscow demonstration. She had alerted to his arrest through his Instagram account.
She and thousands of others are demanding the release of the Russian opponent and a transparent judicial investigation into his poisoning.
“The main figure of this demonstration is Alexei Navalni! He has risked his life and has done a lot for us. I think it is time that we do something for him and express our opinion on Russian justice and what he has become” said Аnna, a resident of the capital.
Together with her, Tatiana Voronina, another Russian citizen, adds that “Navalni carried out an investigation into her attempted murder and identified the perpetrators. The murderers are the agents of the Federal Security Service,” she assured, “and our authorities should have started a case against them and imprisoned them. Instead, instead of trying to stop the poisoners, they arrested Navalni. It is the height of cynicism! “
The response of Navalni’s followers to the call was greater than expected and exceeded, according to calculations by the MBK-media portal, the figure of 110,000 people throughout Russia.
In Moscow alone, some 4,000 citizens participated, according to the Interior Ministry and independent media estimates. A mobilization that survived the harassment campaign launched by the Russian authorities since Thursday to behead the Navalni team and the Fund to Fight Corruption (FBK) created by him, with the arrest of his closest allies and collaborators.
Navalni, who is accused of having violated the terms of a suspended sentence of 3.5 years in prison issued in 2014 and declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights, assures that the Russian Government tries to silence him after the assassination attempt suffered by the last year when he was poisoned by order of Putin, according to a complaint
The EU condemns the arrests and calls for transparency for the Navalni process
The high representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said this Saturday “deplore” the arrests and “the disproportionate use of force” in the demonstrations organized today in Russia in support of the opposition leader, in preventive detention after being arrested on his return from Germany, where he had recovered from the poisoning he suffered last year.
“Following with concern the events that are unfolding in Russia. I deplore the widespread arrests, the disproportionate use of force and cuts in internet and telephone connections,” the head of community diplomacy wrote on his profile on the social network Twitter .
He added that the Foreign Ministers of the 27 will discuss “the next steps” in this regard at their meeting on Monday. However, at that meeting they are not expected to approve new sanctions against Russia, due to the lack of unanimity between European countries.
Amnesty International, calling Navalni a “prisoner of conscience”, condemned the crackdown on the protests and demanded the immediate release of the protesters, as did the US embassy in Russia.