At least 1,400 people have been detained in protests over the release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Moscow was the scene of veritable ‘street hunts’ in which groups of law enforcement officers chased isolated citizens down the street. 1,145 people were arrested in the Russian capital and another 248 in St. Petersburg.Security measures in the center of Moscow were reinforced after calls appeared on social media yesterday to participate in unauthorized demonstrations.
Red Square was closed before hearing the court ruling. Before midnight there were already arrests in front of the Kremlin walls. In the narrow streets of the center, groups of citizens gathered before the police. They shouted against the Government, raised their hands as a sign of peace. The police then beat them up. Many Muscovites canceled their plans to avoid hitting the street in the afternoon, as the police response is increasingly violent and unpredictable. The fear of the police is more present now than before.
You no longer have to do anything, in particular, to be stopped on the street. And the attacks are repeated with impunity. During a nightly protest in central Moscow, the police arrested several media workers. A riot police officer brutally beat a 19-year-old journalist while filming how police and the National Guard dispersed protesters in central Moscow. The wounded man is Fyodor Judokormov, who has a YouTube channel. The authorities have opened an investigation into the event.
The president of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vladimir Soloviev, called the attack on a journalist wearing a “press” vest “an absolutely unacceptable situation”.The Moscow City Court made effective the suspended sentence of 3.5 years in jail against the opponent on Tuesday. Navalny’s sentence deducts the 12 months he spent under house arrest. So if his lawyers are unsuccessful in appealing the ruling, the opponent faces 2.5 years in jail.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, condemned Navalny’s return to prison and asked Russia “to comply with its international commitments and release him immediately and unconditionally.” Also, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called for the release of the opponent. “The ruling contradicts Russia’s international obligations in the sphere of the supremacy of the law and fundamental freedoms. And it contradicts the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, which described this case as arbitrary, Borrell wrote on his Twitter account.
The President of France, Emmanuel Macron; and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the Russian authorities to release the opposition leader.
The United States will coordinate closely with its allies and partners to take a common position on the court ruling against Navalny, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Tuesday. “Even as we work with Russia to advance America’s interests, we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to defend the rights of its citizens,” Blinken said half an hour after the verdict was announced.