Remarkable footage has emerged from Russia on Saturday, showing protesters in Moscow hurling snowballs at police in riot gear. Across the country, tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Alexei Anatolievich Navalny is a Russian opposition leader, politician, lawyer and anti-corruption activist. He came to international prominence by organizing demonstrations and running for office in order to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Putin’s government.
Russian authorities said Navalny violated the terms of a suspended sentence dating to a 2014 embezzlement conviction. A Moscow court is due to rule next month on whether his three and a half-year sentence in the case will be converted into a prison sentence. Navalny has called the case, like others against him, politically motivated. Amnesty International has designated him a “prisoner of conscience.”
Yet even from jail, the 44-year-old opposition figure has continued to be a thorn in Putin’s side. After a judge ruled to remand him in custody for 30 days on Monday, Navalny posted a video on social media appealing to supporters to protest. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take to the streets. Don’t do it for me, do it for yourselves and your future.”
Tens of thousands of Alexei Navalny supporters have protested across Russia in one of the largest demonstrations against Vladimir Putin’s rule of the past decade. Footage shows protesters hurling snowballs at a group of police in Moscow.
According to Department of State spokesperson Ned Price, the United States “strongly condemns the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities throughout Russia.”
Price stated the Russian government has sought to suppress the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression by harassing protest organizers, threatening social media platforms and pre-emptively arresting potential participants. This follows years of tightening restrictions on and repressive actions against civil society, independent media and the political opposition.
“Continued efforts to suppress Russians’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, the arrest of opposition figure Aleksey Navalny and the crackdown on protests that followed are troubling indications of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,” Price said. “Russians’ rights to peaceful assembly and to participate in free and fair elections are enshrined not only in the country’s constitution, but also in Russia’s OSCE commitments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The U.S. has called on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksey Navalny.
“We urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil,” Price said. “The United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners in defense of human rights – whether in Russia or wherever they come under threat.”