- More than 1,000 people have been arrested in Russia after attending unauthorized protests in support of the jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.
- The demonstrations took place across Russia with rallies in the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg attracting the highest number of attendees, despite a current ban on protests in Russia.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested in Russia after attending unauthorized protests in support of the jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.
Demonstrations took place across Russia on Wednesday with rallies in the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg attracting the highest number of attendees, despite a current ban on protests in Russia.
OVD-Info, an independent NGO that monitors protests in Russia, said on Twitter the protests had taken place in more than 90 cities across Russia and had led to more than 1,600 arrests, although the number is hard to verify. The monitoring group also said there were reports that police had used tear gas and stun guns on protesters, but these are unverified.
Figures on the number of people that attended protests differ wildly. Navalny's team have claimed 60,000 people attended the protest in Moscow, while the Moscow Times, citing a Russian-language media platform, reported 25,000 were on Moscow's central Tverskaya street alone. Russia's Interior Ministry played down the figures, however, estimating a turnout of around 6,000 in Moscow and 4,500 in St. Petersburg, with hundreds of demonstrators at other locations across Russia, according to its Facebook page.
Demonstrations in support of Navalny were called by his team as the opposition leader was moved to a prison hospital earlier this week after becoming ill while carrying out a hunger strike in prison.
Navalny was sentenced in February to more than two years for parole violations, charges he said were politically motivated.
At the weekend, his doctor's warned that Navalny was in danger of a heart attack or kidney failure. The physicians had not been able to visit the activist in prison but said medical tests provided by his family showed he was dangerously ill and "could die at any moment."
There were reports of several arrests of members of Navalny's team ahead of the unsanctioned rallies with Lyubov Sobol, who features regularly on Navalny's popular YouTube channel, and Kira Yarmysh, his spokeswoman, both detained in Moscow, their lawyers said, according to Reuters.
The U.S. administration has warned the Russian government to not let Navalny die in custody, adding that there will be "consequences."
Russian President Vladimir Putin made no mention of Navalny in his "state of the union" address on Wednesday, as protests took place. However, he warned the West against any provocations of Russia and crossing its "red lines."
Last summer, Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany from a Russian hospital after he was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent.
The German government said toxicology reports showed "unequivocal evidence" that Navalny was exposed to a nerve agent in the Novichok family, which was developed by the Soviet Union. Toxicology tests conducted in France and Sweden also came to the same conclusion.
Navalny has accused Putin of ordering the poison attack, although Putin and the Kremlin have repeatedly denied having a role in the poisoning.