Russia is seeing the largest mass protests in recent memory. Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in more than 60 cities around the country. They are demanding the immediate release of Alexei Navalny. The prominent oppositions figure was arrested last weekend after he returned home from being treated after an assassination attempt Navalny blames the Russian government for. Moscow says Navalny violated the conditions of a suspended jail term by not registering with Russian police while he was receiving treatment.
With chants of “Putin is a criminal” and ‘Freedom for Navalny’ thousands of demonstrators rallied throughout Russia.
Government officials say at least 4000 people gathered in Moscow’s Pushkinskaja Square. Independent observers put the number at more than 10 times that.
Police detained participants en masse at the unsanctioned demonstration. Among those who were bundled into police vans were Alexey Navalny’s wife, Yulia . And prominent supporters of the opposition leader like his aide, Lubov Sobol.
Navalny called for the demonstrations after he was arrested at a Moscow airport and quickly sentenced to 30 days in jail.
But for many of the demonstrators here, Saturday’s protests were about more than freeing Navalny.
Most organizers didn’t apply for permits. Expecting they wouldn’t be granted. And – ahead of the protest – authorities warned security forces would be deployed, citing concerns about the COVID pandemic.
Arrests were made in cities large and small across the country… as part of the largest opposition action in years. And Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation is calling on its supporters to prepare for another wave of protests next weekend.
DW spoke with Vladimir Ashurkov, Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and a close friend of Alexei Navalny.
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