‘Freedom for Navalny!’ The main events leading up to this Saturday’s opposition protests, in brief
Within 24 hours of returning to Russia, opposition figure Alexey Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days. His team then announced plans to hold rallies opposing his detention on January 23 and released an investigation about President Vladimir Putin’s “palace” on the Black Sea. The hashtag “Freedom for Navalny” (#свободунавальному) started trending on Russian TikTok. Thousands of suspicious accounts began following Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and his local team offices on Instagram (these bot attacks appeared to be aimed at getting them blocked from the platform). The Russian Attorney General’s Office ordered the state censorship agency (Roskomnadzor) to block websites containing calls to attend unauthorized rallies in support of Navalny. Roskomnadzor threatened social networks with fines up to 4 million rubles (more than $50,000) for distributing information aimed at inciting minors to attend illegal protests. The Russian Education Ministry asked parents to keep their children from attending rallies. Schools in the far-eastern Zabaykalsky Krai scheduled Russian language assessments for all grade 7–11 students on January 23, while the University of Ufa declared that Saturday a school day with mandatory attendance for all students and staff. Police officials in Moscow issued a general warning about the punishments for taking part in or inciting the upcoming rallies. Before that, law enforcement officers made rounds to the homes of activists and journalists across the country to warn them against participating in the protests. Then, they began arresting and jailing Navalny’s closest associates (his press secretary Kira Yarmysh was sentenced to nine days administrative arrest). Several volunteers and coordinators from Team Navalny’s regional offices were fined or even jailed for up to three days over rallies that haven’t happened yet. The authorities in Tatarstan launched a criminal case over alleged “calls for riots.” In Balashikha (a city on the outskirts of Moscow), police questioned a ninth-grade girl for four hours over a protest video she posted on TikTok. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured the press that Putin isn’t afraid of Navalny.
Translation by Eilish Hart
Cover photo: Pavel Golovkin / AP / Scanpix / LETA