Russian police arrest over 1,000 protesters backing Putin critic Navalny, monitors say
Police detained more than 1,000 people at protests across Russia in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, the OVD-Info protest monitoring group said.
Supporters of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent fear he soon could die in prison, where he is on hunger strike, and are demanding he be given proper medical care. Officials say he has been treated as any other convict would be and have warned the rallies are illegal.
Many of the protesters were seized before protests even began, including two top Navalny associates in Moscow.
Navalny’s team called the unsanctioned demonstrations after reports that his health is deteriorating while on hunger strike, which he began March 31.
"We believe Mr. Navalny's life is in serious danger.
There is no valid legal basis for Mr. #Navalny’s arrest, trial and imprisonment in Pokrov.
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) April 21, 2021
“The situation with Alexei is indeed critical, and so we moved up the day of the mass protests,” Vladimir Ashurkov, a close Navalny ally and executive director of the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, told the Associated Press. “Alexei’s health has sharply deteriorated, and he is in a rather critical condition. Doctors are saying that judging by his test [results], he should be admitted into intensive care.”
His organisation had said protests would take place in more than 180 cities, but it was not immediately clear if they would match the massive turnout for protests in January that were the largest in Russia in a decade.
Protests in support of Navalny began in each city around 7pm and moved west across the sprawling country.
Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny’s YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher.
His team called the nationwide protests for the same day that Putin gave his annual state-of-the-nation address. In his speech, he denounced foreign governments’ alleged attempts to impose their will on Russia. Putin, who never publicly uses Navalny’s name, did not specify to whom the denunciation referred, but Western governments have been harshly critical of Navalny’s treatment and have called for his release…..read more