Moscow (AP) – Less than a week after the detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, his supporters across Russia want to demonstrate for his release. According to announcements on social networks, protests are planned this Saturday in about 70 cities.
People abroad also want to take to the streets for the opposition politician, including in Munich, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf.
The Kremlin warned against participating in unauthorized gatherings. The Russian security forces announced that they would do everything they could to prevent demonstrations.
The discontent is also directed against Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, who is accused by critics of an increasingly authoritarian course. At the beginning of the week, Navalny’s team released a disclosure video entitled “A Palace for Putin,” which is supposed to prove that the president had built a huge, super expensive building on the Black Sea. The nearly two-hour film about the “ kingdom, ” supposedly funded with bribes, gained nearly 60 million views on YouTube after a few days. The Kremlin describes the charges as “nonsense” and “lies”.
After returning from Germany to Russia, Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in prison in controversial urgent proceedings on Monday. The 44-year-old is said to have violated reporting requirements in previous criminal proceedings while recovering from an assassination attempt in Germany. He is in prison for many years and various trials. Behind the actions of the judiciary and behind the attack with the Novichok neurotoxin on August 20, he sees a “killer team” from the domestic intelligence agency FSB on behalf of Putin. Putin and the FSB deny the allegations. The EU has imposed sanctions on officials in Russia because of the attack.
It was initially difficult to predict how many Russians would eventually respond to the call to protest “Freedom for Alexej Navalny”. On the one hand, winter temperatures could reduce the willingness of some to protest. Authorities are also threatening protesters with hefty fines. In the capital, Moscow, parents of schoolchildren were urged not to participate. Universities threatened to deregister students from participating in the demonstrations. Several of Nawalny’s comrades in arms were arrested ahead of the planned protests, including his spokeswoman Kira Jarmysch.
In connection with the corona pandemic, demonstrations in Russia have not been allowed for months. Human rights activists see this as a pretext for restricting the right to freedom of assembly. According to the political scientist Tatiana Stanowaja, many Russians do not dare to take to the streets for fear of violence by the security forces.
The EU and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) had also called for Nawalny’s release. Russia, on the other hand, refuses to interfere in its internal affairs.
Navalny himself reported on the eve of the planned protests from Moscow’s infamous number one prison, where he is being held. He had no intention of committing suicide, he wrote on Instagram – probably a cynical allusion to the fact that there have been some enigmatic deaths in the past in the prison, popularly known as sailor rest. “My psycho-emotional situation is completely stable.”