The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for protests in dozens of cities and towns on Sunday as part of a boycott of March’s presidential elections that are expected to keep Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin until 2024.
“Russia has matured to the stage for elections to take place not as a production with Putin seeking pseudo-opponents and everyone goes out an performs”, Vladimir Milov, an opposition figure supporting the boycott, said during a debate on the Echo of Moscow radio station. They marched for fair and free elections, they said, and for an end to President Vladimir Putin’s almost two-decade-long rule.
Protesters marched along Moscow’s Tverskaya Street, chanting “Putin leave” and defying cold weather and warnings by police that they could face arrest for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration.
In a blog post on January 27, Navalny urged people to come to the rallies on January 28, writing that “to stay at home is to send them (those in power) the signal: ‘I’m ready to endure this for another six years'”.
“You are not rallying for me, but for yourselves and your future”, he tweeted. “But that doesn’t matter”, Navalny’s Twitter read later in the day.
Hours earlier, police raided Navalny’s Moscow headquarters, where there is a studio for live video transmissions. “He has been taken to the local police for formalities and protocol about an administrative abuse”.
That charge could bring a punishment of 20 days in jail.
With an organisation which claims 84 regional offices and 200,000 volunteers, finding a gag to fit Navalny’s operation is a big ask. The BBC reported that the officials took equipment from the building.
Mr Navalny was detained by police in central Moscow on Sunday after he made a brief appearance at a rally.
Despite his arrest, Navalny called for the protests to continue. “If we take to the streets, then at least we have some kind of chance”.
The 41-year-old anti-corruption crusader has been a target of multiple crackdowns in the past by the Putin administration for anti-government acts.
Several thousand turned up for the rally in Moscow where authorities dramatically beefed up security, dispatching police vans and passenger buses to the city centre.
But to the man who has run for president in the past five elections, Navalny’s supporters shouted, as they had to Putin earlier, “Leave!”
Navalny joined nationwide protests he organised demanding fair presidential election but got a rough treatment in the hands of policemen who were positioned at the venue of the demonstrations to curtail any violence.
Reports indicated up to 185 people were detained nationwide while attending the protests.
The Washington Post reports that thousands swarmed the streets of Russian Federation but there were not as many people as demonstrations that occurred last June.
The lengthy march Sunday by the mostly young group of several hundred protesters came after a large gathering at Pushkin Square dispersed.
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