Police arrested nearly 1,500 people on Wednesday during demonstrations across Russia and sought the freedom of opposition imprisoned leader Alexei Navalny.
The biggest protest took place in Moscow, where thousands marched through the central city. Some of the arrested people were confiscated before the protests began, including the head of Navalny’s companion in Moscow.
Navalny’s team called for an unauthorized demonstration after reporting that his health had deteriorated and his life was at stake over the weekend.
“Alexei’s situation is certainly critical, and that’s why we’ve had a day of massive protests,” said Navalny’s close ally and Secretary-General of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Vladimir Ashulkov, The Associated Press. Told to. “Alexei’s health is rapidly deteriorating and he is in a fairly critical state. Doctors say he should be admitted to the intensive care unit, judging by his tests (results). I will. “
Navalny’s organization called for Moscow protesters to gather at Manez Square, just outside the Kremlin wall, but police stopped it. Instead, a large number of people lined up with the nearby Russian State Library and Tverskaya Street, the main avenue leading to the square. After that, both groups moved down the street.
“If people were killed, not just him, why wouldn’t they come out? There are so many political prisoners,” said Moscow protester Nina Skvortsova.
In St. Petersburg, police blocked the vast space outside the Hermitage Museum, Palace Square, and instead flocked protesters along the nearby Nevsky Prospekt.
It was unclear whether the demonstrations would match the scale and intensity of the national protests that took place in January after the arrest of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent enemy, Navalny. Voter turnout estimates are very different. Moscow police said 6,000 people were demonstrating in the capital, and observers told Navalny’s YouTube channel that the crowd was about 60,000.
The OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests and provides legal advice, said at least 1,496 people had been arrested in 82 cities. The largest tally is St. Petersburg with nearly 600 people.
Navalny’s team called for national protests on the same day Putin gave his annual national speech. In his speech, he condemned the alleged attempts by foreign governments to impose their will on Russia. Putin, who had never used Navalny’s name publicly, did not identify the subject of the accusation, but the Western government severely criticized Navalny’s treatment and demanded his release.
In Moscow, Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yamish and one of his most prominent companions, Lyubov Sobol, were detained by police in the morning.
According to lawyer Veronica Polyakova, Yarmish, who was under house arrest after the January protests, was detained outside the apartment when he went out during the hour he was allowed to leave the country. She was taken to the police station and charged with organizing an illegal rally.
Sobol was taken out of the taxi by uniformed police, said her lawyer, Vladimir Voronin.
OVD-Info reported that police searched the office of Navalny’s organization in Yekaterinbrug and detained Navalny-affiliated journalists in Khabarovsk.
In St. Petersburg, the State University of Aerospace Instrumentation has posted a notice warning that students participating in unauthorized demonstrations may be expelled.
Navalny, 44, was arrested in January after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from the nerve agent addiction that accused the Kremlin. Russian authorities refused the accusation.
Shortly thereafter, the court found Navalny’s long stay in Germany violating the suspended sentence convicted of embezzlement in 2014 and ordered him to be sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Navalny launched a hunger strike to protest prison officials who refused to see a doctor when he began to experience severe back pain and loss of sensation in his legs. The prison states that Navalny had received all the medical assistance he needed.
Dr. Yaroslav Ashikumin, a Navalny doctor, recently received test results from Navalny’s family showing a sharp rise in potassium, which can cause cardiac arrest, and an increase in creatinine levels, which indicates kidney damage. You can die at any time. “
On Sunday, he was transferred to another prison hospital and given a glucose drip. Prison officials refused an attempt by his doctor to visit him.
Russian authorities have tightened crackdowns on Navalny’s allies and supporters. The Moscow public prosecutor’s office has asked the court to brand Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation and his network of local offices as an extremist organization. Human rights activists say such a move would paralyze the activities of the group and expose their members and donors to imprisonment of up to 10 years.
Navalny’s allies have vowed to continue their work despite pressure.
“Of course, it’s an element of escalation,” Ashulkov told AP. “But I have to say that despite the previous pressures, I was able to reorganize and organize my work. I am still confident that I will find a way to work …. There is no intention or possibility to give up what we are doing. “
Jim Heinz and Dalia Litobinova