Moscow: Russian police on Sunday arrested over 1,000 supporters in Moscow and across Russia as they took to street despite the chilling cold to stage protest against the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
According to Reuters, the police are cracking down the nationwide massive rallies that are of a campaign to pressurize the government into freeing President Vladimir Putin’s prominent arch-rival.
Navalny, 44, was arrested on January 17 after returning to Moscow from Germany. He had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia last summer. Navalny accuses Putin of ordering his murder which the Kremlin denies.
Navalny is accused of parole violations, and a court is due to assemble next week to hear the case of awarding him a jail term of up to three and a half years. The West has urged Moscow to let Navalny go, and his allies appealed to US President Joe Biden for the imposition of sanctions on 35 people who they claim are Putin’s close aides.
This month, Navalny uploaded a video on the internet which gained views of over 100 million. In the video, he accused Putin of being the beneficial owner of a sumptuous Black Sea palace but Putin denied the allegation.
Police said that neither the protests were authorized nor would they be allowed. According to a protest monitoring group OVD-Info, over 4,000 people were detained at those rallies last weekend.
Police prevented protesters from accessing the centre in the eastern city of Vladivostok. Police forced the protestors to relocate to the frozen waters of the Amur Bay.
One of the video footages showed that protesters chanting ‘Putin is a thief’ while joining the hands and marching on the ice in around -13 Celsius temperatures. Hundreds of people in the east Siberian city of Yakutsk took to streets in around -42 Celsius temperatures. In the Siberian City Tomsk where Navalny visited last August, protestors gathered in front of a concert hall and chanted ‘Let him go!’
OVD-Info further said that police had so far detained 465 people including 108 in Vladivostok.
Ivan, a protester who refused to tell his complete name, told Reuters that this was the first time he had come to protest, adding that he was just fed up with the lawlessness of the authorities.
This week, many of Navalny’s prominent allies have been arrested in a crackdown including his very brother Oleg who is under house arrest. The arrest of prominent allies made a test case for protestors to support Navalny.
Moscow police had taken highly unusual steps to stop the planned protest location to pedestrians and shut down some metro stations. The measures prompted Navalny ally Leonid Volkov to relocate the protest to the Garden Ring road that circles the city centre. Earlier, protesters had planned to gather near the Kremlin administration.