Biggest protests in years erupt in Russia

Wed 29 Mar 2017

Biggest protests in years erupt in Russia

Past Sunday Russia saw one of the biggest protests in years as thousands of people across the country took to the streets to show their discontent over Prime-Minister Medvedev’s alleged corruption and opulence. The independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy claimed that about 60,000 people in dozens of cities throughout Russia attended marches. Hundreds of protesters, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, were subsequently arrested.

Corruption Investigation

Nalavny had called for the rallies, after releasing a video that depicts the results of an investigation conducted by his Anti-Corruption Foundation into Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s assets. The investigation depicts a system in which Medvedev received bribes from Russian oligarchs and companies, channelled through a network of charitable foundations. These bribes were then used to purchase luxury properties for Medvedev, including mansions, yachts, luxury homes and even a vineyard, in Russia and abroad. A spokesman for the Prime-Minister denied the allegations.

The video and a description of the investigation’s findings can be found at the following link https://fbk.info/english/english/post/304/

Crackdown

Navalny ‘s foundation was shut down by authorities after the protests. Police had tried to “evacuate” its employees, who were livestreaming the protest over an alleged bomb threat. When the employees refused, electricity supply was cut off to the office. When the livestream continued from a back-up studio, the police returned and detained everyone in the office. Two days later, on the 27th of March, Navalny was sentenced to 15 days in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 20,000 roubles, around 350 US dollars, for organising the demonstrations. His staff members were also sent to prison, receiving sentences ranging from 7 to 15 days. Also jailed were his campaign manager Leonid Volkov (sentenced to 10 days in jail)  and assistant Nikolai Lyaskov (25 days in jail).

Nalavny, who has been put on several  - according to his supporters politically motivated - trials in the past years, is known as anti-corruption campaigner and a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He wants to challenge Putin in next year’s presidential elections. It is unlikely that he will be a allowed on to the ballot though as the Russian law forbids people convicted of a crime from running for a public office for 10 years. Nevertheless, so far he is determined to continue his campaign, saying the constitution gives him the right to run in elections.

International reactions

Both the EU and Amnesty condemned the Russian authorities’ handling of the situation, calling for the release of the arrested protesters. Amnesty International furthermore stated that their observers have seen the police use excessive force. The Kremlin on the other hand defended the police saying that they acted in a highly professional and lawful manner, and describing the protests as “a provocation”.

Sources: Aljazeera, CNN, DWNBC News, RFERL, The Guardian