A total of almost 3,500 demonstrators were arrested during the protests in Russia on appeal from the imprisoned opponent Alexei Navalny, including 1,360 in Moscow and 523 in St. Petersburg, the country’s second largest city, the NGO said on Sunday. OVD-Info, specializing in monitoring protest demonstrations.
This is the highest number of arrests during opposition protests in modern Russian history.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in one hundred Russian cities from Moscow to Vladivostok (Far East) on Saturday to demand the release of Alexei Navalny, the sworn enemy of the Kremlin and anti-corruption fighter.
An “intolerable” attack on the rule of law
Most of the protesters arrested in Moscow have been released, according to the chairman of the Advisory Council on Human Rights in the Kremlin, Valéri Fadeïev.
In a press release he also defended these arrests, which took place during “illegal” demonstrations.
The United States and the European Union condemned the crackdown on the protests on Saturday. Amnesty International accused police of “indiscriminately beating and arbitrarily detaining” protesters.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that the wave of arrests represented an “authoritarian drift” and an “intolerable” attack on the rule of law.
Violence on both sides
These unauthorized demonstrations resulted in arrests, sometimes brutal, and clashes between demonstrators and police. The Russian investigative committee, which is responsible for the main criminal investigation in the country, announced on Saturday evening that it was launching an investigation into the use of force against the police and hooliganism during pro-navalny demonstrations.
The committee’s local branch in St. Petersburg announced in a separate statement the arrest of a 36-year-old protester suspected of beating two police officers on the sidelines of the protest.
The Saint Petersburg prosecutor said on Saturday evening that it was investigating not only violence against the police, but also “against the forces responsible for enforcing the law”.
Woman kicked by the police
Prosecutors released their statement after local media broadcast a video showing a woman falling to the ground after being kicked by riot police.
The woman, identified as Margarita Youdina, asks three police officers in the video why they are arresting a young unarmed demonstrator. One of the policemen then kicks him in the stomach.
Margarita Youdina was hospitalized with a head injury on Saturday evening and is still in “serious condition,” a representative from Djanelidze Hospital in Saint Petersburg said on Sunday.
New protests next weekend?
Alexeï Navalny, 44, was arrested on January 17 after returning from Germany after five months of recovery from alleged poisoning for which the Kremlin accused the Kremlin. His call to protest was accompanied by a video investigation, viewed more than 70 million times on YouTube since Tuesday, in which he accused Vladimir Putin of building a magnificent private residence on the banks of the river for a billion euros. the black sea.
The authorities reject all allegations of poisoning and corruption and call the opponent and his entourage “crooks”. On Sunday, Leonid Volkov, a member of Mr Navalny’s team, said he was “certainly proud, very impressed and inspired” by the results of the previous day’s protests. According to him, new protests will take place in Russia “next weekend”.