Moscow (AP) – The main ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has announced a new anti-government protest, urging residents of big cities to gather in the residential yard on Sunday night with their flashlights on.
According to Leonid Volkov, a strategist at Navalny, the demonstration will begin at 8pm and last for 15 minutes. The format of the new rally – similar to the tactics used by opposition supporters during protests in neighboring Belarus – could prevent Russian riot police from intervening and allow anyone to participate, Volkov wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
The protest coincides with Valentine’s Day, and Volkov was entitled “Love is stronger than fear”.
“He picks up the phone’s flashlights – and someone might bring candles – and turns them into heart-shaped ones … He takes a picture of him from upstairs, one of the apartments, and puts it on Instagram. Let it be a social media news channel full of thousands of brilliant hearts from dozens of Russians, ”Volkov wrote. – No OMON (riot police), no fear.
Navalny, 44, the anti-corruption investigator, Russia’s most prominent critic of President Putin, was arrested on January 17 when he returned from Germany, where he spent five months on neurotoxic poisoning responsible for the Kremlin. The Russian authorities have rejected the charge.
His arrest and imprisonment sparked nationwide protests, with tens of thousands gathering in Russia for two weekends in a row in the flood of greatest dissatisfaction in years.
The Russian authorities responded with tough action. More than 11,000 people were detained and hundreds were imprisoned. Many of Navalny’s close allies are making charges and are under house arrest.
Last week, a Moscow court ruled that while Navalny was recovering in Germany, he had violated the probation period of his sentence suspended from a 2014 money laundering conviction and ordered the imposition of two years and eight months in prison. Navalny rejected the political persecution of the 2014 verdict before the decision, and the European Court of Human Rights called it “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable”.
In the wake of severe police action, Volkov said protests should be suspended until spring, as holding rallies every weekend will only lead to many more arrests.
On Tuesday, however, he argued that “something stronger than fear” should be accepted about the repression and a protest should be held that police could not derail.
“We’re already in the majority, but Putin divides (riot police) with cordons so we don’t see each other and see how many we have. We need to find a way to overcome this, ”Volkov wrote.
Asked whether the opposition’s call for a court rally could be seen as an unjustified protest, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “difficult to say” but assured reporters that if someone in Russia broke the law, law enforcement bodies hold them accountable. .
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused on Tuesday that Navalny’s allies were NATO’s “agents of influence” and that they changed their minds after the protests were suspended after receiving instructions from members of the bloc on “how to be” smarter “in continuing the subversive state. work.”
Zakharova pointed to an online conference with EU, US and UK officials attended by Volkov and another Navalny staff member, Vladimir Ashurkov, on Monday. Volkov said on Twitter that sanctions were being discussed at the event against individual Russian officials and tycoons.
Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment have heightened tensions between Russia and the European Union. European leaders have demanded the release of the opposition leader, and several European nations have proposed additional sanctions against Moscow.
The Kremlin has said it will not listen to Western criticism of supporters of Navalny’s verdict and police action.