Photos From Russia Protests – The New York Instances
Tens of thousands of people came to Russia for a second rally for the weekend in a row on Sunday to support an imprisoned opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny. But wherever the demonstrators went, the police also went and met them in sometimes brutal clashes.
The protests began in the Far East of Russia and spread across the nation, although the crowd in some cities appeared to be lower than last weekend. Thousands of demonstrators came to St. Petersburg, the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, Novosibirsk in Siberia, Moscow and elsewhere. More than 4,000 people were arrested.
Even before the Russians gathered, the Kremlin made it clear that there would be large numbers of police officers. The officers mostly responded with arrests. However, by early Sunday afternoon, reports of police brutality against protesters had surfaced in several cities – including the possible use of electric batons on protesters and the beating of others.
More than 1,200 protesters were arrested in Moscow, the OVD-Info activist group reported. Police closed subway stations and paralyzed much of the city center as they tried to prevent protesters from gathering in one place.
The show of force – and the fear of the Kremlin – in Moscow was different than in previous years. “All for one and one for all!” A column of protesters, numbering in the thousands, sang as they marched across town to the prison where Mr. Navalny was being held.
Demonstrators scattered in the northern part of Moscow city center played an hour-long game of cat and mouse with riot police in body armor and camouflage. Using Twitter and Telegram, Mr Navalny’s supporters directed the protesters further north towards the city’s main train hub and sent columns of police cars in that direction.
The arrest of Mr Navalny gave a new focus to the opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin, which, despite the decline in his popularity, had remained uneven.
Protesters young and old came out in the capital. Among them was Lyudmila Mikhailovna, an 83-year-old retired pediatrician who refused to give her last name. She said she wasn’t a huge fan of Mr. Navalny. But she had seen his video about a palace on the Black Sea built for President Vladimir V. Putin and decided to join the protest because “I am for honesty, nothing else”.
Mr Navalny’s return to Russia on January 17 changed the Kremlin’s political landscape – both domestically and abroad. Inside the country, Russians who are dissatisfied with their president suddenly have a clear leader to rally around.
The appeal of Mr Navalny’s case to those who do not share his political views is that it is seen as a symbol of the main source of the anger many Russians feel towards the Kremlin: injustice.
The authorities had made it clear that there would be a strong police response. In the past few days, Mr. Navalny’s brother, Oleg Navalny, and Maria Alyokhina have been placed under house arrest by the punk band Pussy Riot. Mr Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was detained on Sunday.
Mr Navalny’s allies were not deterred by the police presence on Sunday and called for further protests on Tuesday as Mr Navalny stands on trial for alleged parole violations related to a six-year-old embezzlement case for which he could be sent to prison several years.