RUSSIA | More than 4,000 arrested during rallies to demand the release of Navalni

This Sunday Russia has experienced a day of massive arrests of followers of Alexei Navalni. According to the NGO OVD-Info, more than 4,000 people have been arrested across the country during rallies to demand the release of the famous blogger and opposition leader. Since the early hours of the morning, tens of thousands of people have defied the government ban and took to the streets of more than a hundred cities to support the allegations of corruption that have made Navalni the Kremlin’s No. 1 enemy. Most of the arrests have taken place in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Among those arrested is Yulia Navalnaya, an activist and Navalni’s wife. Before being arrested, she shared messages and videos on social media.

This is one of the biggest shows of force by the Russian opposition in many years. Famous for his allegations against corruption, Alexei Navalni has been in prison since he returned two weeks ago from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a poisoning with the chemical agent novichok for which he directly blamed Vladimir Putin. When he got off the plane, he was arrested on charges of having violated the terms of his probation, which prohibited him from leaving the country. Nalvani was taken from Russia in a coma at the insistence of his family that he be treated in Germany.

Shortly after he was imprisoned, the anti-corruption foundation he runs published a video on YouTube in which Navalni shows a luxurious palace built on the shores of the Black Sea and supposedly owned by Vladimir Putin. The palace, says the opposition leader, is the result of the largest bribery in history. The video has had more than one hundred million views. The Kremlin flatly denies that the Palace belongs to Putin and an oligarch friend of the Russian president has come forward claiming that he is the true owner and not the president.

In any case, Navalni’s followers believe his allegations of corruption at face value and, as they have shown for three Sundays, they seem to have lost their fear:

– “I think we’ve reached a tipping point and now it’s getting fun. Last time it was scary to protest. Now it’s fun to see these policemen, the governor, the mayor. It’s fun to see the reaction of Comrade Putin from Rotenberg and the rest. And I think once it’s gotten fun, it’s the beginning of the end for them, that’s for sure, “said one protester.

– “I was born under Putin and I don’t want to die under him. That’s why I came out,” explained a young man.

– “Yes, I agree”, agreed a girl next to him.

Citing health security reasons due to the pandemic, Moscow had banned the rallies called by Navalni. The Russian government has described criticism from the United States for the mass arrests of protesters as “gross interference”.