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More than 260 arrests in anti-Putin protests across Russia

Discussion in 'Europe & Russia' started by BMD, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. BMD

    BMD Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2...-arrests-in-anti-putin-protests-across-russia

    More than 260 arrests in anti-Putin protests across Russia
    Riot police confront supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as president marks 65th birthday



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    Protesters supporting Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg on Saturday. Photograph: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP
    This article is 1 month old


    Marc Bennetts

    Saturday 7 October 2017 19.09 BSTLast modified on Thursday 19 October 2017 21.36 BST

    More than 260 people have been detained across Russia as jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters staged protest rallies on Vladimir Putin’s 65thbirthday.

    Dozens were arrested in Putin’s hometown of St Petersburg, Russia’s second biggest city. One woman had her leg broken when riot police dispersed hundreds of protesters chanting “Putin is a thief!” in the centre of the city, according to Russian media. Blood could be seen pouring down the head of another woman detained by police in footage posted to social media.

    The protest in St Petersburg was just one of more than 80 anti-Putin rallies that took place across Russia on Saturday, after Navalny was sentenced to 20 days in prison on Monday for organising “unsanctioned public rallies.” This was the third time Navalny, a 41-year-old anti-corruption lawyer who wants to stand against Putin at next year’s presidential elections, has been jailed since March.

    In a message dictated from prison, Navalny urged his supporters to demand that the Kremlin allow genuine political competition. Russia’s government-controlled election committee says the opposition leader is barred from running at next March’s elections because of a previous conviction for fraud. Navalny says the charges were trumped up to prevent him challenging Putin for the presidency.

    In Moscow, about 1,000 protesters braved riot police and driving rain to gather at Pushkin Square before marching towards the Kremlin, where they were blocked by lines of police. Demonstrator numbers were significantly down on similar anti-Putin rallies held in March and June.

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    Policemen detain demonstrators in St Petersburg. Photograph: Peter Kovalev/TASS
    “Down with the tsar!” chanted the crowd, in a mocking reference to Putin, who has now ruled Russia for almost 18 years. Others urged Putin to retire. One man held a brightly-decorated box labelled “Pension”.

    “I’m here today to stand up for my rights,” said Yevgeny Тarasov, a 19-year-old student. “I want to live in a country where there are fair elections.”

    Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia’s Oscar-nominated film director, was one of a number of Russian cultural figures to criticise the Kremlin ahead of the rallies. “What are you afraid of? An open political battle?” Zvyagintsev said, in an online video. “It’s revolting to observe this show.”

    Putin has not yet confirmed that he will seek a new six-year term of office next year, but many analysts expect him to announce his candidacy next month or in early December.

    Although police clamped down hard on the protest in St Petersburg, they were far less heavy-handed in Moscow than at previous opposition events in the Russian capital. Just three people were detained, according to OVD-Info, a website that monitors arrests at opposition rallies. More than 1,000 people, including dozens of schoolchildren, had been arrested at the two previous protest rallies organised by Navalny in Moscow this year.

    On Saturday, the total number of arrests across the country was more than 260. In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-biggest city, 24 people were detained at a demonstration that was also attended by Yevgeny Roizman, the city’s opposition-friendly mayor.

    Navalny, a pro-democracy politician with undisguised nationalist views, has won a substantial following in Russia with his investigations into government corruption. He first emerged as a prominent opposition figure during the massive anti-Putin protests that rocked Moscow in 2011-2012.

    The opposition leader’s campaign staff came under heavy pressure ahead of Saturday’s rallies. Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief-of-staff, was jailed for 20 days on Thursday for posting two tweets about the protests. “Do you understand the charges?” the judge asked. “I understand you have no conscience,” said Volkov, whose heavily pregnant wife is due to give birth at any time.

    In Rostov-on-Don, a city in Russia’s south, a senior police official threatened a member of Navalny’s campaign team. “I’ll fucking do you, and you’ll remember me for a long time,” the police official said, according to a telephone conversation posted online by campaign staff.

    The Kremlin said Putin spent his birthday making telephone calls to world leaders and heading a scheduled meeting with members of Russia’s security council.
     
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