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Jan 24, 2021
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Hot Saturday. How did the uncoordinated protests go in Russian cities?

On January 23, many Russian cities saw uncoordinated protests staged by supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In Moscow, such an action turned into serious clashes with the police. About four dozen security officials were injured, the exact number of those injured by the demonstrators is not known.

Calls for an unauthorized action

He called on to come to protests throughout Russia Alexey Navalny, after January 17, he returned from Germany to Russia and was detained at Sheremetyevo airport. The politician recorded an appeal to supporters directly from the police station in Khimki. The local court arrested him for 30 days, explaining this decision by repeated violations of Navalny’s obligations as a suspended prisoner in the Yves Rocher case.

According to the Federal Penitentiary Service, Alexei Navalny missed mandatory registration with regulatory authorities at least seven times in the first eight months of 2020. After treatment in the Berlin clinic “Charite” from the effects of poisoning on August 20 (according to Western doctors, Navalny was poisoned with a chemical warfare agent from the “Novichok” group), the politician did not contact the Federal Penitentiary Service for a month, in connection with which he was put on the wanted list and was detained immediately upon arrival in Russia.

The authorities refused to approve the rallies as the coronavirus epidemic continues in the country. “The risks remain extremely serious. We see how dramatically the situation is developing in European countries, “- in particular, said the mayor of Moscow in his address to citizens Sergei Sobyanin

Meeting in Kazan.
Meeting in Kazan. Photo: AiF / Regina Badrutdinova

US Embassy involvement

Nevertheless, the upcoming action was actively promoted on the Internet all week. Including in those social networks that minors actively use. The US Embassy in Moscow was also involved in the promotion, which published the exact addresses, start time and routes of uncoordinated actions of Navalny’s supporters. Formally, calling on American citizens to avoid these places.

The Russian Foreign Ministry considered that “such comprehensive data go beyond” caring “about its own citizens.” “All this coincides with Washington’s provocative doctrinal guidelines to stimulate” protests in countries with governments they dislike. ” Any attempts to “cover” unauthorized rallies in this way will be viewed as gross interference in the internal affairs of our country and will cause an appropriate reaction, ”the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova recalled that until recently, the staff of the American embassy harshly criticized the protests in their homeland. “The brutal and criminal attack on the Capitol building is a serious reminder of how important it is to value and protect the basic principles of our republic, which are enshrined in the Constitution, including the right to vote, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. The power of the aggressive crowd is never and has never been a part of our constitutional system, ”Zakharova quoted the American ambassador about the storming of the Capitol and added:“ The whole planet saw how your Government turned a peaceful protest into a “non-peaceful” one when the police started shooting at demonstrators. (When will you answer for the numerous attacks by US police on Russian journalists covering the US protests during 2020?) And then the US government called the actions of peaceful US protesters an “attack on democracy.” Hypocrisy is a tool of American diplomacy that has become especially dangerous during the period of the covid epidemic, ”concluded Zakharova.

Participants of an unauthorized rally by supporters of Alexei Navalny on the Moika embankment in St. Petersburg.
Participants of an unauthorized rally by supporters of Alexei Navalny on the Moika embankment in St. Petersburg. Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexey Danichev

Rallies in Russian cities

On Saturday January 23, supporters of Navalny took to the streets in many cities in Russia, but the number of rallies in most cities with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg was relatively small. In Yakutsk, about 50 people took to the streets in a 50-degree frost. In Vladivostok, according to various estimates – about 3 thousand, in Khabarovsk – up to a thousand people, in Nizhny Novgorod – also up to a thousand, in Yekaterinburg – about 3 thousand people.

The actions in most cities were quite peaceful. The police limited themselves to calling on citizens to disperse. In Krasnoyarsk, one of the protesters had an attack. The police provided him with first aid, after which the protester was evacuated in an ambulance. But in Yekaterinburg, protesters began throwing smoke bombs at the police. In response, law enforcement officers began arresting.

In some large cities, despite the calls of the non-systemic opposition, no one came out to protest at all. For example, in Sevastopol, in a place agreed by the opposition, by the conditional time, only policemen gathered, who were supposed to keep order. After standing for a while, they also parted.

Meeting in Yekaterinburg.
Meeting in Yekaterinburg. Photo: “AiF-Ural” / Evgeny Lobanov

Clashes in Moscow

In Moscow, protesters began to gather by 2:00 pm on Pushkin Square, a common place for protests. The largest unauthorized rally of the day took place here, as well as the most serious clashes with the police. The Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated the number of participants in the action at 4,000 (the protesters themselves claim that there were 5-10 times more of them).

In the beginning, everything was relatively peaceful. The star of the first hour was a 14-year-old schoolboy who came to the square and from whom the press began to interview. The guy said that he came just out of curiosity – “to see what will happen.” A police officer approached him and tried to take him away. The teenager started to struggle, and people around screamed, demanding to release the child. As a result, the policemen nevertheless took the student away, after which they took him to his parents, said the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child under the President of the Russian Federation Anna Kuznetsova.

“The extreme indignation of parents is caused by the fact of such annoying agitation of our children to come to illegal actions. This outrages me, as a mother of seven children, – she commented a little earlier on attempts to lure children into an unauthorized action. – In fact, these people are trying to hide behind the backs of our Russian children. For me this is beyond comprehension. Our task is to protect our children. And now most of the parents are united by this idea. Of course, it is very important to note the fact that all calls to violate the law directed at our children must, of course, be suppressed. “

Gradually, the crowd in the Pushkinskaya area became more and more aggressive. The mood of some of the protesters is well conveyed by the incident here. When Navalny’s opponent climbed onto one of the streetlights with a corresponding poster, several dozen of the blogger’s supporters pulled him down and began to kick him. Several peaceful protesters tried to stop the crowd and, covering the victim with their bodies, helped him to get up and leave. The police carried out separate detentions.

Most of the protesters behaved quite peacefully, but some aggressive young people clashed with the police. Law enforcement officers threw snowballs, kicked and punched. Especially hit those who the crowd managed to knock to the ground. On Strastnoy Boulevard we played football with a police helmet. The riot police used truncheons in response to aggression. Detentions also began. According to media reports, in total, over 600 people were detained in the capital (in general, the number of detainees in Russia exceeded 1,900 people).

From Pushkin Square, the crowd moved towards Tsvetnoy Boulevard, continuing to clash with the security forces. Not far from the Circus on Tsvetnoy, aggressive protesters surrounded a car with a flashing light and began to throw anything at it. Only the driver of the special services was in the cars. When the glass was broken in the car, he suffered an eye injury. After the police managed to get through to him, he was taken away in an ambulance and hospitalized.

In total, according to official data at 19.00, 39 security officials were injured. The Investigative Committee of Russia began a pre-investigation check on the use of violence against law enforcement officers.

Participants of an unauthorized rally by supporters of Alexei Navalny on Pushkin Square in Moscow.
Participants of an unauthorized rally by supporters of Alexei Navalny on Pushkin Square in Moscow. Photo: RIA Novosti / Evgeny Odinokov

There were also attacks on the police in St. Petersburg. For example, an unidentified man approached a traffic police officer who was regulating traffic near one of the places where an unauthorized rally was being held and punched him forcefully in the face. The guard fell to the asphalt. The attacker was later identified and detained.

The police were tough … in London. There, Navalny’s supporters also gathered near the Russian embassy, ​​but they were quickly dispersed. The country has a strict quarantine due to the coronavirus, and the local police promptly cleared the streets of demonstrators.

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