Navalny’s nationwide protests: Round II Russians across the country brave the cold and the cops, all over again
What’s happening today? On January 31, opposition figure Alexey Navalny’s supporters are staging protests across Russia for the second consecutive weekend. His team of activists says it anticipates demonstrations in at least 142 different cities, and dozens of rallies are taking place elsewhere around the world. In Moscow, protesters plan to assemble at Lubyanka Square and Staraya Square at noon, local time (4 a.m., EST), and a demonstration scheduled at the same time is being organized in St. Petersburg at Nevsky Avenue. Just like last weekend, the local authorities have declared the rallies illegal.
Background: Activists are marching for the release of Alexey Navalny, who has been in jail since returning to Russia earlier this month. Last August, he nearly died after being exposed to a deadly nerve agent reportedly administered by Russian federal agents. On Tuesday, February 2, Navalny returns to court, where a judge will decide whether his recuperation in Germany constitutes a parole violation in connection with a previous conviction. Navalny could be sentenced to years in prison as punishment.
Before last weekend’s protests, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (an organization that the Russian Justice Ministry has designated as a “foreign agent”) released an investigative report about a seaside “palace” outside the city of Gelendzhik that allegedly belongs to the president. The accompanying documentary film has already been viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Vladimir Putin is involved in the residence in any way, and pro-government media outlets have criticized Navalny’s claims. After more than a week of news coverage, the billionaire Akrady Rotenberg — one of the president’s long-time, close personal friends — announced that he is the site’s majority owner. Rotenberg says it’s an “apartment hotel” that won’t be ready for a few more years.
Last weekend, on January 23, Navalny’s supporters marched in almost 200 cities across Russia, resulting in more than 4,000 arrests and two dozen criminal cases against demonstrators, including felony charges against activists who allegedly attacked police officers and even protesters who violated coronavirus lockdown measures. Officials used this latter public safety concern to place several of Navalny’s top colleagues under house arrest, including the politician Lyubov Sobol and Navalny’s own brother, Oleg.
Meduza is monitoring the protests on January 31 and reporting major events below.
The situation as of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time (12:00 p.m. EST)
The protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg have come to an end. According to the most recent figures from OVD-Info, the nationwide arrest count for today is upwards of 4,500 people — a new record for the most people detained in a single day. This number includes more than 1,400 detentions in Moscow and nearly 1,000 in St. Petersburg.
Many detainees are still custody at police stations; some are being written up for violations or even taken to court. Alexey Navalnyʼs wife, Yulia Navalnaya, has been released from police custody after being written up for violating the rules for holding rallies. She is set to appear in court tomorrow.
The authorities have already started opening dozens of criminal cases in connection with the rallies, including ones over alleged attacks on law enforcement officers.
This ends Meduzaʼs live blog coverage for today. More detailed reporting still to come!
Yulia Navalnaya has been in police custody for more than three hours. Her lawyer told MBX Media that the police are trying to «agree on what to pin on her.»
The facial recognition system in the Moscow Metro was used to detain protesters today, reports TASS. Apparently, the systemʼs database contains the faces of people who have repeatedly taken part in unauthorized rallies.
Via the state news agency TASS:
Law enforcement officers have identified another 10 people who, during the unauthorized rallies on January 23 and 31, participated in illegal actions, including in attacks on police officers, a source in law enforcement said.
A riot police officer pushed a 65-year-old Chelyabinsk woman during the rally earlier today, injuring her arm. Team Navalny in Chelyabinsk has since published medical documents showing that her arm is fractured.
Three cases of attacks on law enforcement officers were recorded in St. Petersburg today, an anonymous source tells Interfax.
About 15 people could face criminal charges for attacking police officers in Moscow, reports the state news agency TASS, citing an unnamed source.
7:00 p.m. Moscow time update (11:00 a.m. EST)
There have been no reports in the last hour of any remaining protest gatherings in Moscow or St. Petersburg (nor have there been any reports of police arresting protesters). In total, as of 7:00 p.m. Moscow time, 1,349 people have been detained in Moscow. The countrywide arrest count has reached 4,347 people.
Police officials in St. Petersburg are denying reports of the use of stun grenades and pepper gas against protesters, reports RIA Novosti.
A map of Moscow showing how the protest in support of Navalny progressed and where the rallies took place.
Nationwide arrest counts hits 4,096 people, breaking last weekendʼs record number of detentions in a single day.
In Rostov-on-Don, 71 people were arrested during todayʼs demonstration. According to OVD-Info, 14 of them are being charged with petty hooliganism.
4,000 people have been arrested nationwide, reports OVD-Info.
«Free Navalny» protests in Rome today.
Opposition politician Ilya Yashin being taken away in a police van.
An unusual scene in Moscow: a man approaches a group of riot police with a bat and is detained immediately.
A man shouting «Russia will be free» as police officers arrest him during the protest in Volgograd. Caucasian Knot reported dozens of arrests, but according to OVD-Info 13 people were detained.
Protests are also taking place in Berlin in today.
Harsh arrests caught on video in Moscow today.
Protesters chanting «Putin is a thief» during todayʼs demonstration in Krasnodar.
Residents of a house on Moscowʼs Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street are throwing rolls of toilet paper out their window at a special detachment of police officers who are carrying out harsh arrests on the street below, reports Meduzaʼs correspondent.
In the video below, officers can be seen shoving protesters.
Yulia Navalnaya is being detained at Moscowʼs Shcherbinsky Police Station and isnʼt being allowed access to her lawyer.
Team Navalny has announced that todayʼs march in Moscow is over (though arrests are still ongoing).
Opposition politician Ilya Yashin has been detained.
Arrests taking place on Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street in Moscow.
A detachment of riot police officers are pushing protesters away from the entrance to the Komsomolskaya Metro Station, reports Meduzaʼs correspondent. Theyʼve been ordered to «detain everyone.»
Police officers in St. Petersburg are reportedly using public transit buses to transport detainees.
Protesters on Moscowʼs Olkhovskaya Street chanting «Let us through!»
Moscowʼs Olkhovskaya Street has been blocked off with police vans, trapping protesters. Demonstrators are chanting «Let us through!» reports Meduzaʼs correspondent.
Approximately 2,000 protesters have gathered on Olkhovskaya Street. «I can detain 150 to 200 people here. Tell me, should I block them?» one riot police officer said on a phone call overheard by Meduzaʼs correspondent.
A small group of protesters has turned around and is heading back towards Krasnoselskaya Metro Station.
Protesters on Komsomolskaya Square running between cars to escape from the security forces. Video: Artyom Raspopov / Novaya Gazeta.
Moscow: the large group of protesters from around the Krasnoselskaya Metro Station are walking along Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street and turning onto Olkhovskaya Street, heading towards the city center. Some people are moving into the road. Meduzaʼs correspondent reports that the protesters are chanting: «They wonʼt jail everyone!»
St. Petersburg: the crowd near the Bryantsev Youth Theater has been dispersed. There are no longer any visible groups of protesters, but police are continuing to make individual arrests, reports Meduzaʼs correspondent.
Media have also reported a young man who fell down and lost consciousness while being detained — the police officers insisted that he was just pretending and carried him away.
Thousands of protesters near Moscowʼs Krasnoselskaya Metro Station are chanting «Nobody showed up again,» reports Meduzaʼs correspondent.
Meanwhile, two reporters from The Insider were detained near Komsomolskaya Metro Station. In the video below you can see them being taken to a police van — while wearing their press vests.
Police officers use a taser against a protester while leading him to a police van.
The current situation in the area around the Krasnoselskaya Metro Station in Moscow.
A protesters in St. Petersburg holding a giant pair of blue underwear with the words «Stop Killing!»
St. Petersburg: police reinforcements have arrived in the area near the Bryantsev Youth Theater and are dispersing protesters. According to Meduzaʼs correspondent, thereʼs about 150 police officers there, but not hardly any demonstrators left.
Some snapshots from around the Bryantsev Youth Theater earlier today:
New felony charges in St. Petersburg
Federal investigators say theyʼve arrested a man in St. Petersburg for attacking a state official at Pionerskaya Square earlier today. The suspect allegedly punched a riot police officer at least twice in the head.
The state of the man who set himself on fire in Moscow earlier today might be worse than previously reported.
The nationwide arrest count has now reached 3,013 people, according to OVD-Info.
A source told the news agency Interfax that the man who tried to self-immolate earlier today in Moscow has reportedly survived and is now receiving first aid. The incident apparently occurred near the Tverskaya subway station. Passersby knocked the man to the ground and put out the fire.
The situation as of 4 p.m., Moscow time (8 a.m., EST)
In Moscow and St. Petersburg, Alexey Navalnyʼs supporters staged mass demonstrations, despite attempts by the police to shut down large areas of both city centers, leading to hundreds of often violent arrests.
Moscow: Improvising rallying points, demonstrators assembled near the Krasnye Vorota and Sukharevskaya subway stations, before marching along the Garden Ring to Komsomolskaya Square. The crowd then marched to the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, where Navalny is currently jailed, before riot police dispersed the protesters, chasing people into neighboring apartment buildings and courtyards. Moscow officials say just 2,000 people participated in todayʼs rallies, accusing 600 of these activists of blocking traffic. After the encounter with riot police at Matrosskaya Tishina prison, many demonstrators returned to Komsomolskaya Square.
St. Petersburg: Demonstrators gathered at Pionerskaya Square near the Bryantsev Youth Theater and marched along Zvenigorodskaya Street toward Sennaya Square, where the police tased protesters and deployed reportedly tear gas against some who tried to free several detainees. Activists plan to end the rally outside the Bryantsev Youth Theater.
At the time of this writing, observers have recorded more than 2,500 arrests at protests across the country. Yulia Navalnaya, Alexey Navalnyʼs wife, is one of todayʼs detainees.
The Telegram channel 112 reports that an unidentified man in Moscow allegedly doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire at Tverskoy Street.
Police in St. Petersburg have arrested TJournal correspondent Artem Mazanov.
Meduzaʼs correspondent in Moscow says riot police burst into the Rusakov Сulture Сenter and are now violently dragging people outside.
Police and protesters clash in St. Petersburg on Pereulok Antonenko outside the cityʼs Legislative Assembly building. The authorities are dividing the demonstrators into two groups and forcibly dispersing the crowds. Video by Avdeenko Nina for Novaya Gazeta.
Police officers in Moscow have been spotted with bags apparently containing gas masks.
Protesters are trying to gift flowers to riot police in Kaliningrad. (Admittedly, the officers donʼt appear to be very receptive to the gesture.)
The Moscow Police Department says just 2,000 people, including members of the press, attended todayʼs protests.
A crowd marches down Gorokhovaya Street in St. Petersburg, chanting «Putin is a thief!» Video: Katya Kuznetsova for Meduza.
Novaya Gazeta correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko has been released from police custody in Sochi, where she was arrested earlier today while reporting from the cityʼs opposition protests.
The nationwide arrest count has now surpassed 2,000 people
- Moscow — 456 people
- St. Petersburg — 200 people
- Krasnoyarsk — 194 people
- Vladivostok — 129 people
- Novosibirsk — 103 people
A police car in a courtyard near Moscowʼs Voznesenskiy Pereulok reportedly caught on fire today. The blaze was promptly extinguished. Itʼs unclear if the incident was protest-related. A source told the news agency TASS that no one was injured.
The scene outside Moscowʼs Matrosskaya Tishina prison (where Alexey Navalny is currently jailed), moments before riot police dispersed the crowd.
Sofya Rusova, a member of Russiaʼs Journalists« and Media Workers» Union, told Open Media that police have arrested more than 50 reporters at todayʼs nationwide protests. Some of these journalists were also beaten. Every one of these people presented evidence of their employment and reporting assignment, said Rusova.
According to OVD-Infoʼs latest count, police have arrested at least 1,823 people at protests across Russia today, including 377 in Moscow, 165 in St. Petersburg, and 164 in Krasnoyarsk.
National Guard troops have deployed in St. Petersburg and are hurrying toward the cityʼs parliament building.
Police officers are arresting demonstrators gathered outside Matrosskaya Tishina prison, chasing them to a nearby playground.
A crowd of protesters has reached the Matrosskaya Tishina prison in Moscow, where Alexey Navalny is being jailed.
Squeezed from the cityʼs public squares, demonstrators in St. Petersburg scrawled «NAVALNY» into a frozen waterway.
Earlier today in Yekaterinburg. («OMON» stands for otryad militsii osobogo naznacheniya, or special-purpose police force.)
Police in Sochi have arrested Novaya Gazeta correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko.
Activists in Kazan say the police are beating detainees with clubs and forcing arrested protesters to lie face-down in the snow.
Like last weekend, Navalnyʼs wife is arrested again
Yulia Navalnaya has been arrested at todayʼs protest in Moscow.
Men in plainclothes are reportedly grabbing demonstrators off the street in Volgograd, according to Alexey Navalnyʼs campaign staff in the city.
Yulia Navalnaya, Alexey Navalnyʼs wife, is attending todayʼs protest in Moscow. She was briefly detained at last weekendʼs demonstration.
A police officer at Sennaya Square in St. Petersburg drew his firearm on the crowd of protesters, reports Fontanka.
The situation as of 2 p.m., Moscow time (6 a.m., EST)
In Moscow, an overwhelming police presence prevented protesters from reaching Lubyanka Square and Staraya Square, as planned. Instead, demonstrators assembled near the Krasnye Vorota and Sukharevskaya subway stations, before marching along the Garden Ring to Komsomolskaya Square. Police officers have carried out mass arrests and the cityʼs subway system has closed multiple stations in the Sokolnicheskaya line, blocking points where more people might join the crowd.
In St. Petersburg, demonstrators gathered at Pionerskaya Square near the Bryantsev Youth Theater and marched along Zvenigorodskaya Street toward Sennaya Square, where the police deployed reportedly tear gas against some protesters who tried to free several detainees. Officers also used clubs and tasers against some demonstrators.
Across the country, the number of arrests on Sunday is nearing 1,500 people. Most detentions have been in Moscow (142 people) and Vladivostok (113 people).
Snowballs are flying at the police again in St. Petersburg.
Rebecca Ross, the spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Moscow, weighs in on todayʼs police crackdown in Russia.
Meduza«s correspondent on the ground says police officers are violently beating protesters with clubs and tasing demonstrators assembled at Sennaya Square.
Reports of torture in Vladivostok
Police officers in Moscow have arrested The Insider journalist Oleg Pshenichny. He is currently being detained in a police van.
«I canʼt breathe, guys!» Police violently arrest a protester in Chelyabinsk. Onlookers shout, «Disgrace!»
Reports of tear gas
According to a correspondent for the St. Petersburg news outlet Fontanka, police officers have used tear gas against protesters at Sennaya Square after the crowd attempted to break several detainees out of custody.
Meduza«s correspondent on the ground says the police are condoning off the square and arresting more and more people.
Police officers in Moscow have started to disperse the crowd at Komsomolskaya Square, pushing demonstrators toward the Yaroslavsky railway station. A group of protesters had just confronted several riot police and chanted «aqua-disco» — a reference to Vladimir Putinʼs alleged «palace» on the Black Sea coast.
Roskomnadzor, Russiaʼs federal censor, is warning Internet users against posting «fake information» about todayʼs unpermitted protests, vowing to block any content that includes «inflated attendance figures» or accounts of «alleged incidents of violence and clashes, as well as deaths of protesters.» Roskomnadzor says it will block «fakes» and «hold distributors accountable.»
Arrests, so far
At the time of this writing, police officers in cities across Russia have taken more than 1,000 protesters into custody, based on information collected by Meduza and OVD-Info:
- Moscow — 142 people
- Vladivostok — 113 people
- Krasnoyarsk — 93 people
- Novosibirsk — 91 people
- Perm — 40 people
- Novokuznetsk — 36 people
- St. Petersburg — 26 people
The crowd now at Komsomolskaya Square in Moscow, where demonstrators are chanting, «Freedom for Alexey Navalny!»
Police in St. Petersburg have arrested rapper Oxxxymiron (Miron Fyodorov).
In St. Petersburg, demonstrators march along Zvenigorodskaya Street. Meduza«s correspondent on the ground says the protesters have no idea where theyʼre going. Meanwhile, the police continue to arrest more people.
A train operator in Moscow appears to cheer on a crowd of protesters.
Rallies in Russiaʼs East
Sundayʼs protests have come and gone in Siberia, the Urals, and Russiaʼs Far East. The biggest demonstrations occurred in Yekaterinburg (where journalists estimate a crowd of 7,000 people) and Novosibirsk (where Navalnyʼs own activists say 10,000 demonstrators turned out).
In Vladivostok, due to road closures and police barricades in the cityʼs center, protesters marched to the embankment of the Amur Bay, where riot police forced the crowd onto the ice. Demonstrators later formed a circle dance around a stalled police hover-boat. Over the course of the day, the authorities arrested more than 100 people.
In Yekaterinburg, demonstrators also marched onto a frozen pond in order to reach the cityʼs Dinamo Stadium, where todayʼs protest was supposed to take place. The stadiumʼs entrance was blocked, however, and the crowd eventually dispersed.
Meanwhile, in Russiaʼs heartland: Police officers in Moscow and St. Petersburg have completely closed off the city centers. Activists have responded by trying to improvise new meeting points. In Moscow, protesters have tried to reach the «Krasnye Vorota» and «Sukharevskaya» subway stations and march to Sakharov Avenue, abandoning a plan to assemble outside the Federal Security Serviceʼs headquarters. In St. Petersburg, demonstrators gathered at Pionerskaya Square near the Bryantsev Youth Theater. Police have been waiting in all these places, arresting activists as they arrive.
Moscowʼs Regional Security and Anti-Corruption Department says just 300 people are attending todayʼs protests in the city, where police have virtually locked down the center.
Meduza«s correspondent on the ground at the Bryantsev Youth Theater in St. Petersburg estimates that between 1,000 and 2,000 people have turned out for todayʼs protest, including the popular rapper Oxxxymiron (Miron Fyodorov), whose 36th birthday is today.
Moments ago in St. Petersburg, police officers violently shoved Meduza correspondent Ekaterina Kuznetsova in the back while arresting demonstrators, though she is wearing a bright vest that identifies her as a journalist.
Meduza is pausing its live-blog briefly and will return soon.
Moscow police officers have arrested another Navalny activist: Dmitry Nizovtsev. The authorities reportedly had his home staked out all night.
Initial turnout at protests in Khabarovsk and Vladivostok seemed to suggest that many of Navalnyʼs supporters might skip today, but the movement appears to be maintaining its numbers in most cities.
Riot police in Perm have blocked a road in a faceoff with demonstrators.
At Chistye Prudy in Moscow, police officers are stopping passersby and checking their bags.
Demonstrators chant, «We are the power!»
Police have now arrested six demonstrators in Moscow at Chistye Prudy, where todayʼs opposition protest isnʼt planned to begin for another hour.
Moscowʼs Transportation Department has issued a warning stating that the cityʼs police force might order unscheduled closures of exits at various downtown subway stations.
About 1,000 people are marching today in Omsk.
Rallies are underway abroad, as well.
Police in Novokuznetsk arrested a reporter from the website Kuzpress who says the officers are rounding up anyone wandering into the cityʼs public squares. The authorities told him that they are searching for someone who reportedly robbed a postal worker in the area, but the police are apparently arresting everyone indiscriminately — men, women, young, and old.
(According to the monitoring group OVD-Info, there are roughly 40 people being held in custody at a local police station.)
Todayʼs protest in Novosibirsk reportedly drew a larger crowd than last weekendʼs rally. According to the news outlet Taiga.Info, at least 5,000 people assembled in the city on January 31, despite temperatures hovering at -21°C (-5°F). Police have arrested at least 30 people, so far.
Riot police have cordoned off the «Chistye Prudy» subway station, about a 15-minute walk from Lubyanka Square, where Navalnyʼs supporters plan to assemble. The first arrests have already begun.
Late on Saturday evening, police «re-arrested» Navalnyʼs spokeswoman, Kira Yamysh. She was due to be freed from jail at 11 p.m., local time, but the authorities press new charges 30 minutes before her scheduled release, naming her as a suspect in the cityʼs case against activists who supposedly violated Moscowʼs coronavirus lockdown restrictions during the protests on January 23. The police also re-arrested Anti-Corruption Foundation activist Nikolai Lyaskin.
Citing contact-tracing records, Moscow city officials say 19 people infected with COVID-19 attended the opposition rally on January 23. So far, the authorities have blamed this apparent public endangerment on «Pussy Riot» member Maria Alyokhina, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol, Navalnyʼs Moscow office coordinator Oleg Stepanov, «Doctors» Alliance» head Anatasia Vasilyeva, and Navalnyʼs own brother Oleg. These individuals are now under house arrest.
Overnight before Sundayʼs protests, police officers also arrested Sofia Kashchenko and Alexandra Shapalina — two staff members from Navalnyʼs YouTube channel who planned to cover the demonstrations.
Police officers arrested at least 57 people at demonstrations in Vladivostok.