Russia cracks down on Navalny protests, locking down city centers and arresting thousands
The Kremlin responded to a second straight weekend of protests on Sunday with a violent crackdown, arresting thousands in a show of Moscow’s unease at the growing unrest triggered by the treatment of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
A week after tens of thousands of Russians joined demonstrations in more than 100 cities throughout the country, authorities moved to stem Sunday’s rallies before they started, using more aggressive tactics.
But thousands came out despite the threat of arrest — the turnout in some Russian cities was believed to be higher than a week ago — boosting the opposition’s hope of a sustained movement.
Police detained more than 1,000 people and broke up rallies across Russia on Jan. 31 as supporters of Alexei Navalny took to the streets to protest his jailing. (Reuters)
Hours after protests began in Russia’s two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, the monitoring group OVD-Info reported that more than 5,000 people had been detained throughout the country, more than were arrested last Sunday. Navalny’s wife, Yulia, was arrested again.
To head off an afternoon protest planned for Moscow, the city shut down seven Metro stations four hours in advance, told stores and restaurants to close and blocked several roads around the Kremlin, sealing off much the capital’s center.
Police with black helmets and batons were posted along side streets, and they set up checkpoints and restricted people from passing. Large vehicles belonging to Russia’s National Guard parked in front of the famed Bolshoi Theatre; police trucks lined up outside of Moscow’s luxury department store, Tsum.
In an effort to defeat the authorities’ blockade, Navalny’s team announced a new meeting point, about a mile from the original location of Lubyanka Square.
The choice of Lubyanka had been symbolic: It’s in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, the agency that Navalny has said was ordered by President Vladimir Putin to poison him. Navalny took ill during a trip to Siberia in August; Putin has denied involvement. “Who needs him, anyway.
“If we had really wanted, we’d have finished the job.”