Moscow Bracing For More Protests Despite Mass Arrests

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Two weekends of nationwide protests in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny occurred in Moscow despite thousands of arrests, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Tens of thousands of people participated in protests against President Vladimir Putin and the detention of Navalny on Sunday, the AP reported. Over 5,400 people were detained for participating in the demonstrations.

Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, and he faces a possible prison sentence, the AP reported. His supporters asked protesters to show up at the Moscow courthouse to demonstrate on Tuesday.

“Without your help, we won’t be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” Navalny’s team said in a social media post, the AP reported.

Russian state-run media outlets reported the demonstrations as small and as a failure of the opposition, the AP reported. Navalny’s team said the protests showed “overwhelming nationwide support” for the opposition.

Navalny’s wife Yulia was detained for several hours and fined $265 for participating in an unauthorized demonstration, the AP reported. 

Navalny was arrested after returning from Germany on Jan. 17, where he was recovering from nerve-agent poisoning he says the Kremlin orchestrated, the AP reported. Russian officials have denied the accusation.

He was issued a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence that Russia’s prison service has since suggested be replaced with an actual sentence requiring Navalny to serve time in prison, the AP reported. Navalny allegedly violated his probationary terms set after he was convicted of money-laundering in 2014.

In an effort to extinguish the protests, several of Navalny’s family members and associates have been detained or placed on house arrest, the AP reported. His brother Oleg, top ally Lyubox Sobol and three others are under house arrest until March and face criminal charges for violating COVID-19 restrictions.

At least 40 criminal investigations have begun in 18 regions associated with the demonstrations, Agora human rights organization leader Pavel Chikov said, the AP reported. At least 51 people were hit or thrown to the ground by riot police, according to legal aid group OVD-Info.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the protests were “unlawful” and that “there was a fairly large number of hooligans, provocateurs with more or less aggressive behavior toward law enforcement officers,” the AP reported.

“In response to provocations, the police act harshly and within the law,” Peskov said, according to the AP. The state media also reported “aggressive actions” by demonstrators on Sunday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s statement condemning the use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists was a “crude interference in Russia’s internal affairs,” the AP reported. The ministry said that the statement supported the protesters and could destabilize the situation.

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