On January 23, dozens of Russian cities held rallies in support of Alexei Navalny. He was remanded in custody for 30 days after returning to Russia from Germany, where he underwent treatment after being poisoned with poison from the Novichok group. On the eve of the actions, the headquarters of the politician announced that they would take place in 93 cities of the country. Rallies were also held abroad – in Australia, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Great Britain, USA, Montenegro and other countries.
Despite the lack of coordination with the authorities, the protest action became the largest in many years. It was attended by tens of thousands of people. Unlike many other rallies, thousands of people in the regions gathered at it. According to journalists, in Krasnodar about six thousand people took to the streets, in Yekaterinburg – seven thousand, in Nizhny Novgorod – up to ten thousand, in Perm – from three to 10 thousand protesters, in Barnaul – three thousand people.
The most massive rallies in Siberia and the Far East took place in Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk: in each city several thousand people gathered. Residents of Yakutsk went to the rally, despite the fact that it was -50 degrees outside. In Omsk, more than two thousand people marched at a temperature of -28. January 23 was cold not only in Siberia: in Yekaterinburg people protested at -34.
More than three thousand people have been detained throughout Russia. This has never happened. At the time of publication of this text, it is known that more than 1,100 people were detained in Moscow, and more than 400 in St. Petersburg. Dozens of people were detained in Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Khabarovsk and other cities.
In Moscow, according to various estimates, from 20 to 50 thousand people were demonstrating. Reuters claims that 40,000 people took to the streets in the city. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, traditionally giving low figures, estimated the number of protesters at four thousand people.
Participants of the Moscow action gathered at Pushkinskaya Square, as well as at Tverskaya Street on both sides of the road. Later, some of them went in the direction of the Kremlin – in the direction of Manezhnaya Square, but it and Red Square were quickly blocked. The protesters turned into Kamergersky Lane, where they chanted “Down with the Tsar!” and “Freedom!” Those who remained near Pushkin Square set off towards Sretensky Boulevard. At the Tsvetnoy Bulvar station, riot police began to violently disperse them.
The action ended near the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison, where Alexei Navalny is. Dozens of people were severely detained and beaten there.
Many journalists were injured during the rallies. In St. Petersburg, Meduza’s special correspondent Alexandra Sivtsova was detained. She worked for the action on an editorial assignment, with her press card. Three and a half hours after the arrest, Sivtsova was released from the police without drawing up a protocol. At a rally in Moscow, Meduza’s special correspondent Kristina Safonova was twice hit with a truncheon by an OMON fighter when she was filming the arrest of one of the protesters; Safonova was wearing a “Press” vest.
The journalist of “Novaya Gazeta” Elizaveta Kirpanova was hit on the head with a truncheon by a riot police officer. Vera Ryabitskaya, the correspondent of The Insider, was beaten during the arrest, and the correspondent of the Avtozak Live telegram channel Nikita Stupin said that an electric shock was used on him. There are also dozens of detained journalists.
The independent trade union of journalists recorded 52 cases of obstruction of the professional activities of journalists.
As a result of the rallies, criminal cases have already been initiated. There are more than a dozen of them – on the use of violence against law enforcement officers, calls for riots, deliberate damage to property and hooliganism. Cases were opened in Moscow, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk and other cities. “It feels like after what we saw today, the authorities will take revenge. And this revenge will be large-scale, ”Sergei Badamshin, a lawyer for Human Rights Protection of the Postcard, told Meduza.
Navalny’s associates are going to hold new actions in a week. This was stated by the coordinator of the regional headquarters of Navalny, Leonid Volkov. At the same time, according to him, organizing rallies will be “a thousand times more difficult, if only for the reason that now almost all of our regional coordinators are under administrative arrest.”