Followers of the Russian opponent Alexéi Navalni, in preventive detention for six days, took to the streets of a hundred cities in Russia to challenge the president Vladimir Putin despite the violent repression by the police and the more than 2,000 arrests throughout the country.
“We are not satisfied with Putin’s policy, I am a Navalni supporter and I am not afraid. I’m tired of the illegality and corruption, “Artiom Mirabián, one of the thousands of people who came out today to the central Púshkinskaya square, told EFE.
“Putin out” and “Freedom for Navalni” were the main slogans that were repeated throughout the day throughout the country, to the beat of the eleven time zones of Russia.
Navalni, who is accused of having violated the terms of a suspended sentence of 3.5 years in prison handed down 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 that he suffered last year when he was poisoned by order of Putin, according to a complaint.
The response of Navalni’s followers to the call was higher 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.
And that despite the harassment campaign that the Russian authorities launched since Thursday to behead the Navalni team and the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) created by him, with the arrest of his closest allies and collaborators.
“Participation in the protests exceeds all expectations. There are a lot of people! ”, Navalni’s team said on its Telegram channel about the demonstration in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude, one of the first to be held this Saturday.
Mass arrests across the country
In all the marches there were arrests, not a few with the use of force by the Police. According to the OVD-info portal, specialized in monitoring arrests, this Saturday 2,250 people were arrested for participating in the protests, of which 855 were arrested in Moscow and another 372 in St. Petersburg.
In Moscow the clashes between protesters and the police turned into a pitched battle.
In the capital the arrests began even before the start of the protest, and an hour later the riot police began to suppress it violently.
“They don’t hesitate for a moment. They hit the head directly, “a young man with a bandaged forehead and a bruise on his eyebrow told Efe.
The agents also promptly detained one of Navalni’s main collaborators, Liubov Sobol.
They also had no qualms about arresting the opponent’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who was released a few hours later.
To try to break up the march, the police cleared Púshkinskaya Square and several of the protesters began a march through the center of the city towards the Matrósskaya Tishiná prison, where Navalni is being held.
International Amnesty (AI), which describes Navalni as a “prisoner of conscience”, condemned the repression of the protests and demanded the immediate release of the protesters, as did the US embassy in Russia and the high representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, who condemned “the disproportionate use of force.”
Meanwhile, the FBK has already announced on its Twitter account the call for new protests for next weekend.