Moscow (dpa) – Following protests across Russia for the release of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, there are calls for further EU sanctions against Russia.
The punitive measures should hit oligarchs and friends of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, opposition members living abroad around former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky said. “Hunt them, follow their money flows,” said former world chess champion Garry Kasparov at the online press conference. The EU should use the sanction tool it adopted in December to combat human rights violations.
The European Union’s foreign representative, Josep Borrell, announced that he would discuss the next steps with the EU countries’ foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. FDP leader Christin Lindner called for a moratorium on the further construction of the controversial German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2.
During historic protests on Saturday, tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated in about 100 cities for the release of Navalny and against President Vladimir Putin. Civil rights activists counted more than 3,400 arrests across the country on Saturday night. At least 1,360 protesters were arrested in the capital Moscow alone, the portal OWD-Info announced on Sunday morning. There were 523 arrests in St. Petersburg. Some 300 minors were also detained, according to the Russian children’s rights commissioner.
Navalny’s colleagues spoke of 40,000 people taking to the streets in Moscow alone. The police had indicated that the number of participants in the unauthorized demonstration was significantly lower. The opposition team, which was the victim of a poison attack in August, spoke of a “grand, all-Russian action”.
Meanwhile, a video on social networks caused horror showing a woman brutally kicking a police officer in St. Petersburg. According to media reports, the 54-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury. She’s in hospital and unconscious. Investigators have announced that they are investigating the matter.
Navalny is facing several criminal proceedings and many years of imprisonment in Russia. The 44-year-old is currently in custody for 30 days for allegedly violating reporting requirements in previous criminal proceedings – while recovering from the poison attack involving chemical warfare agent Novitschok in Germany.
Following the Navalny team’s recent revelation video of a massive palace allegedly built by Vladimir Putin with bribes, protesters’ anger was also directed against the president. The Kremlin had dismissed the allegations in the film, which was viewed over 70 million times, as nonsense. “Putin is a thief,” people sang in many places – demanding not only the release of Navalny, but the dismissal of the Kremlin chief. Political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya noted that the protests made Navalny a hero in the country.
The opposition politician’s staff have announced that they intend to continue the protests over the next week. Due to the corona pandemic, no rallies have been approved in Russia for months. Anyone who does participate should expect heavy fines. The protests on Saturday were an “important first step,” the Nawalny team said. Now it takes a second and a third step. “It’s hard to say when we’ll win.”