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Russia's nationwide protests on Putin's 65th birthday, in photos
Saturday’s protests in 80 cities across Russia turned out very different, depending on the city. Some demonstrations had permits, while others did not. In some places, Alexey Navalny turned out just a few dozen supporters, while hundreds hit the streets in other cities. The biggest rallies took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the police responses were in stark contrast: almost no one was detained in Moscow (though the rally was unsanctioned), while St. Petersburg law enforcement executed a harsh crackdown on protesters. Meduza summarizes Saturday’s activism.
Opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s supporters demonstrated in dozens of cities across Russia on Saturday, demanding that he be allowed to run in next year’s presidential race, despite a federal law prohibiting convicted felons from seeking elected office. (Navalny disputes his felony conviction.) Both the anti-corruption figure and his campaign manager, Leonid Volkov, spent the day in jail, where they’re currently serving 20-day sentences for repeated violations of laws on public assemblies. Navalny’s campaign nonetheless managed to organize rallies in 80 cities, staging a mix of solitary pickets and medium-sized demonstrations. In Novosibirsk, for example, organizers say several hundred people turned out.
Police started detaining activists before the demonstrations even started. In at least eight cities, officers hauled in Navalny’s campaign staff and volunteers before the planned rallies were due to begin. In Krasnodar and Smolensk, Navalny’s local campaign heads were placed under administrative arrest on Friday night. In the Russian exclave Kaliningrad, Navalny activists say two members of the campaign disappeared on Saturday. One of these people, Oleg Alekseyev, stopped answering his phone while en route to the local campaign office, which he was supposed to open. By the evening, his colleagues learned that he’d been taken into police custody. Around 10 p.m., local time, Alekseyev and two other campaign staff, Oleg Vodyanitsky and Andrey Stepanenko, were finally released.
By 9 p.m., Moscow time, the “political persecution” watchdog OVD-Info reported that police had detained 290 people in 26 different cities: 62 protesters in St. Petersburg, 57 in Yaroslavl, 21 in Krasnodar, and 20 in Lipetsk. Detentions were also reported in Moscow, Perm, Pskov, Saransk, Seliatyn, Sochi, Stavropol, Tver, Tyumen, Yakutsk, Yekaterinburg, Izhevsk, Nizhny Tagil, Rostov-na-Donu, Samara, Saratov, Tyumen, Tula, and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
In some places (like Samara), police released detained protesters without pressing any charges, whereas law enforcement in other cities filed misdemeanor charges. At Navalny’s rally in Yekaterinburg, which Mayor Evgeny Roizman attended, one detained demonstrator took ill and lost consciousness. Speaking to the independent television network Dozhd, Roizman condemned the police response, calling it excessive.
In Samara, activists went around in two groups, trying to locate detained protesters. Police detained three organizers before the rally began, and then grabbed a few demonstrators at the event itself, which took place in a public square that was also hosting a concert. Competing attractions sprung up in several cities where Navalny’s supporters protested. Both St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, for instance, hosted rallies in support of Catalonian independence.
When several dozen activists in Samara arrived at a police station they believed was holding Navalny protesters, they learned that the detainees had already been transferred to another station. In the end, no one was jailed overnight and everyone went free.
In Yakutsk, police officers reportedly beat up a demonstrator. According to the website SakhaDay, the victim is Vadim Vasilyev, a student at the North-Eastern Federal University. He was reportedly beaten with clubs while being detained, suffering a broken nose and losing several teeth. The newspaper Kommersant reported that Vasilyev was later hospitalized, though SakhaDay says he was still in police custody by midnight, local time. Officers reportedly denied him access to a lawyer, and “all the city’s leadership” supposedly met at the police station to question Vasilyev. Just after midnight, police released him without pressing any charges.
After going free, Vasilyev changed his story, telling his lawyer that the injuries to his face were the result of a fall, though at least one activist told SakhaDay that his friends saw police officers attack Vasilyev.
As always, the largest demonstrations took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where at least several hundred people gathered to support Navalny. The rally in Moscow at Tverskaya Street — the site of a large unsanctioned demonstration in June that resulted in a large standoff with police — came and went largely without incident. Police detained just two protesters, according to OVD-Info.
In St. Petersburg, police responded with greater force to demonstrators, who first assembled at Marsovo Polye and then moved to Liteyny Prospekt, where many activists broke through the police line. Dozens of people were detained as a result, and several demonstrators were injured.
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