The political activist Aleksei Navalny was immediately arrested when returning to Russia. He returned after receiving medical care in Germany after the Kremlin ordered assassination attempt in October. He was charged with accusations of crimes connected to money laundering and was firstly sentenced to 30 days in Russian prison.
The arrest of Aleksei Navalny sparked nationwide protests in Russia, leading to rallies with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters on January 23rd, demanding the immediate release of the jailed political activist and calls for president Vladimir Putin to resign. Rallies and demonstrations were held in over 100 Russian cities with 50.000 attendees in Moscow. International media reported that at least 3.500 protesters were detained by Russian police in the aftermath of the protests.
All these numbers mark a record for Russian anti-Putin protests in several years. The crackdown from the Russian government has also been directed towards the team and family of Navalny, with his wife being arrested together with the heads of his offices in both St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Navalnys return to Russia has sent shockwaves in the country, as well as in the Kremlin. Although himself behind bars, the team of Navalny published a video documentary showing the enormous palace near the Black Sea – estimated to over 1.4 billion dollars of worth – claimed to have been built for Vladimir Putin with Russian tax money. The documentary has been viewed on Youtube over 100 million times.
The protests in Russia should also be seen as acts of solidarity with the Belarusian nationwide protests. It was allegedly reported that several crowds in Russia chanted ”Long live Belarus” and waived with the red-and-white flags of Belarus, which is still banned in the country.
Aleksei Navalny’s team issued a statement from Navalny on Thursday 28th of January, seen as a motivational imperative ahead of the planned nationwide demonstrations which are to be held in the coming weekend. Navalny said:
“Come on out, don’t be afraid of anything. Nobody wants to live in a country where tyranny and corruption reign. The majority is on our side.”
Navalny, along with other oppositional activists in Russia, has promised to stay on with the demonstrations every Saturday. In his own case, the date February 2nd is of crucial importance. That is when the Russian court will determine whether or not he will be sentenced to three-and-half years in Russian prison.
He has stated publicly that he does not intend to committ suicide, if he were to be found dead in prison with the authorities falsely claiming suicidie. The chilling statement of Navalny really indicates the brutality, force and reprecussions that politicial activitists face in Russia.