?????????? ?????? ???????? ?????? ???????? ?????, ???? ??? ?????. ???-??????, ??????? ? ???????? ???? pic.twitter.com/TODVdF5lEm— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) January 28, 2018
Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, was briefly arrested from Moscow amid protests against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny, who was the biggest and the only challenger to the Russian president in the election race, was barred from the polls after the sudden emergence of a 2017 criminal conviction for embezzlement, essentially making Putin the only candidate for president.
Following what Navalny called a politically motivated disqualification, he called on his supporters to go on a “voter’s strike,” in protest against allegedly rigged Russian presidential elections due to be held in March.
However, soon after Navalny appeared at Pushkinskaya Square for the demonstration, he was surrounded by helmet-clad cops who grabbed and threw him on the ground before dragging him into a patrol wagon.
Navalny, who is also a lawyer and a financial activist, used his Twitter account to reach the thousands of demonstrators marching across the country. Despite being arrested, he called on his supporters to continue with the protests.
“I’ve been detained. This doesn’t matter. Come to Tverskaya (Street). You are not going there for me, it’s for you and your future,” the 41-year-old activist wrote.
Russians took to the streets in more than 100 cities for free and fair elections. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East, and also turned out in Arctic areas, such as in Siberia’s Irkutsk, where the temperature is around -40° in winters. According to the Russian Interior Ministry, the “uncoordinated mass demonstration(s)” were held at 46 different places in coordination with local authorities.
Russia, a country where holding street protests is considered illegal, witnessed a series of Navalny-led demonstrations against alleged corruption by Putin’s government last year. Navalny had also accused Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev of being corrupt in a report. This year, however, the protestors were prepared.
“I am ready to be shot if it comes to it,” Sergei Ivanchenko, a 27 year old participant, told the Moscow Times. He said Russia has no future as it is held under Putin’s iron grip. A teenager, Nastia, said, “It’s time for a change.”
Prior to Navalny's arrest, the police raided his Anti-Corruption Foundation in Moscow, the Associated Press reported. They broke the door of the office’s studio during a YouTube broadcast, using an electric saw. Navalny believes this was an attempt to “take down” the broadcast.
Though Navalny has been released, he will still have to face the court. He could face up to 30 days in jail if found guilty of illegally organizing the protests, Navalny's lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, told Reuters.
Social media users remained active throughout the protests and were quick to react to Navalny’s detention.
No justice, no peace, as we say— ecolocalizer (@ecolocalizer) January 28, 2018
Proteste vor den Präsidentschaftswahlen in Russland: Nawalny gibt keine Ruhe https://t.co/iVmNJrrled @navalny @v_milov @vlar_rus @sinpena14#AlexeyNavalny #PussyRiot #Russia #pussy #Putin
Some users even called out President Donald Trump since he enjoys a cordial relationship with Putin.
This is the kind of “election” America will have if Trump isn’t impeached. And soon. WATCH: #Putin doesn’t like competition, so he shoves his opponent into a car (on video) at protest. #AlexeyNavalny https://t.co/9rHpLqakm4— Mary Birdsong (@marybirdsong) January 28, 2018
Navalny thanked his followers, who showed up for the cause in huge numbers.
"I am proud of all those who joined us today in any capacity… These are real citizens," Navalny said in a Facebook post.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Sergei Karpukhin
Banner Credits: Reuters, Grigory Dukor