Demonstrators gathered in dozens of cities across Russia to protest the detention of anti-corruption crusader Alexey Navalny and call for President Vladimir Putin’s ouster.
Some protesters in far-eastern cities protested in temperatures as low as 63 degrees below zero. Riot police were out in force across the country, which may have kept the turnout low.
Still, thousands of people gathered in Moscow. Not among them was Navalny’s wife Yulia, who was detained by police at a Metro station where protesters were gathering. Several of Navalny’s aides and close associates were also detained this week as Putin tried to stop the demonstrations before they started.
It didn’t work.
In Moscow, authorities sealed off Red Square and deployed riot police. Problems were reported with mobile internet connection and Twitter, and activists alleged authorities jammed the internet. On the central Pushkin Square, where a demonstration is planned, workers began abruptly re-laying the pavement, a frequent tactic used by authorities to disrupt protests.
Ahead of the protests, authorities launched a wave of arrests, detaining activists at their homes, including several of Navalny’s top lieutenants. The prosecutor general’s office issued a warning that anyone attending the protests risked arrest, and opened a broad criminal case on charges relating to unauthorized public events.
A human rights group, OVD-Info, says the number of people arrested nationwide is more than 1,000.
This video is from Vladivostok where riot police charged the protesters.
А вот так силовики разгоняют людей, несогласных с тем, что их обворовывает плешивый дед pic.twitter.com/nbgjSWuTP0
— Штаб Навального во Владивостоке (@teamnavalny_vdk) January 23, 2021
Another eastern city protest.
Томск. Бесконечная колонна людей. В каждом регионе, в каждом городе граждане выходят на улицу! Сегодня какой-то невероятный день pic.twitter.com/lLCwvF9lka
— Сталингулаг (@StalinGulag) January 23, 2021
Navalny’s supporters gathered in often bitingly cold temperatures. In Omsk, where a crowd of several hundred demonstrated, the temperature was -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Navalny has traditionally had little pull in Russia’s vast regions outside Moscow and previous calls for nationwide protests have previously seen only small crowds of a few hundred in most of the large regional cities. The marches on Saturday appeared larger than usual.
Navalny has been under constant threat from authorities for exposing Putin’s corruption in his popular blog and his writing and speaking engagements. His most recent exposé may have been his best yet. He uncovered a “secret” $1.4 billion palace built by Putin.
The video report detailing the allegations was released by Navalny’s team on Tuesday, two days after the dissident was jailed for 30 days upon his return to Moscow. By Wednesday it had garnered over 35 million views.
Navalny, in the footage, claims that Putin allies, including oil chiefs and billionaires, paid for the construction of the $1.35 billion Black Sea palace, the BBC reported.
“[They] built a palace for their boss with this money,” Navalny says, according to the report. He added it was built “with the largest bribe in history.”
The video has received 35 million hits on YouTube.
After Navalny was poisoned last year, it was believed his days as an anti-corruption crusader were over. Some of the protest groups aligned with him and his anti-corruption foundation melted away.
But Navalny’s arrest for failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge — after the judge knowingly scheduled the hearing while Navalny was still in Germany recovering from being poisoned — appears to have reenergized his movement. Putin isn’t threatened — yet. But seeing some of those crowds turn out in below-zero weather to protest corruption must have made him a little uncomfortable.