Supporters of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny plan to stage protests across Russia following his recent arrest.
Russian authorities have arrested several of Alexey Navalny’s closest allies, including the spokeswoman for the top Kremlin critic, ahead of planned weekend protests against his recent arrest.
Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent, was arrested on January 17 and then jailed for alleged parole violations after flying to Russia for the first time since being airlifted to Germany in August following of alleged poisoning he attributes to the Kremlin – an accusation he denies.
His allies are planning to hold protests against his detention in cities across the country on Saturday as part of what may be Russia’s biggest protest in years.
But on Thursday, several associates close to Navalny, including prominent activist Lyubov Sobol and his spokesman Kira Yarmysh, were arrested for calling on the Russians to join the protests.
On Friday, a Russian court ordered Yarmysh to remain in detention for nine days.
The move came as the Kremlin said planned nationwide protests were illegal and were being promoted by people it called provocateurs.
Prosecutors have warned Russians against taking to the streets during the coronavirus pandemic, while the state’s communications watchdog has warned social media platforms – including the TikTok video app – against encouraging minors to participate in gatherings.
Many Russians have taken to social media – including TikTok and even the dating app Tinder – to express their support and ask for a strong turnout on Saturday following Navalny’s arrest.
A number of public figures – including those who generally avoid politics – have also spoken out in favor of the jailed opposition figure.
Police in the capital, Moscow, have said they will crack down on any manifestation of support for Navalny.
“Attempts to organize unauthorized public events, as well as any provocative action by their participants, will be considered a threat to public order and immediately suppressed,” Moscow police said in a statement on Friday. .
Navalny associates urged Russians to take to the streets despite warnings and pledged financial aid to protesters fined on Saturday.
“Putin is doing everything to intimidate you,” Ivan Zhdanov, head of the Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation, wrote on Facebook.
Before his arrest, Yarmysh had recorded a video also calling for a high turnout on Saturday. “Our future literally depends on how many people take to the streets,” she said.
‘State in Russia’
The developments came after Navalny on Tuesday published a corruption investigation into a lavish $ 1.35 billion property on Russia’s Black Sea coast that he said was owned by Putin.
The two-hour video report – in which Navalny describes the vast estate as a “state in Russia” in which Putin is “czar” – has been viewed more than 50 million times since its publication, becoming the most popular YouTube survey. watched by the Kremlin critic. .
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov once again denied that the mansion belonged to Putin on Friday, calling Navalny’s investigation “lies”.
Navalny has repeatedly led large-scale street protests against Putin in the past, most notably in 2011 and 2012 when tens of thousands took to the streets to protest widespread allegations of voter fraud in parliamentary elections .
The last time mass protests took place in Moscow was in 2019, when Navalny’s allies and a host of other opposition politicians were banned from running in local elections.