Protesters are taken away by law enforcement officers during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg, Russia January 23, 2021. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

More than 100,000 Russians in over 100 cities protested the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. From Moscow to Yakutsk, where temperatures dipped as low as -58 Fahrenheit, Navalny’s allies hoped the rallies would pressure the Kremlin to release Navalny. Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s regional network, urged more protests on Jan. 31 “for Navalny’s freedom, for freedom for all, and for justice.”

Russian police arrested more than 3,300 protestors nationwide, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya; Navalny’s lawyer, Lyubov Sobol; and Lucya Stein, a member of the punk band Pussy Riot known for their protests against the Russian government. Demonstrators could face up to five years for participating in the protests. In Moscow, more than 40 people were hospitalized in connection to the protests. Five National Guard members were injured in the city, among 37 other law enforcement members. Officials opened a criminal case for violations of health rules at the Moscow rally, noting they believed some protesters had the coronavirus.

Navalny was arrested by Moscow officials Jan. 17 when he returned from Germany after recovering from nerve agent poisoning. The opposition leader blamed the Russian government for the poisoning. A Russian judge ordered Navalny jailed for 30 days for violating probation on a 2014 money laundering conviction. Russia’s prison service will seek to have Navalny serve his suspended 3 ½ year sentence.

While U.S. officials condemned the Russian response, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. was supporting a violation of Russian Federation law.  Despite reports of large numbers at the protests, Peskov downplayed the turnout and said voter support of Putin remains strong. Russian senator Andrey Klimov accused foreign intelligence services of helping to organize the protests and pushed the narrative that foreign social networks promoted the demonstrations. TikTok removed some posts promoting the events ahead of the weekend.

European Union foreign ministers said the EU will abstain from placing sanctions against Russia if the Kremlin releases Navalny. Germany insisted on giving the Kremlin more time as multiple members, including Estonia, Italy and Romania, called for imposing sanctions. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will travel to Moscow next week to push the Kremlin to release Navalny and protestors.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Explaining Alexei Navalny’s Heroic Return to Russia – The National Interest – 1/25/2021
Navalny’s decision to return to Russia to certain arrest was a heroic choice. But, rather than a purely quixotic gesture, it was likely a calculated risk by a popular leader with a long track record of smart political strategies.

Social Media Fueled Russian Protests Despite Government Attempts To Censor – NPR – 1/24/2021
Protests exploded across Russia over the weekend, fueled largely by videos posted to social media, despite attempts by the Russian government to censor content across various platforms. The protesters braved extreme cold, police brutality and mass arrests, calling for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was detained last week shortly after returning to the country. Social media helped spark and organize the protests, after Navalny called on his supporters to take to the streets on Saturday.

Echoes of Belarus in Russia’s Navalny protests – Financial Times – 1/24/2021
A casual observer on Moscow’s Pushkin Square on Saturday could have been forgiven for mistaking the scene for events that have wracked neighbouring Belarus for the past five months. […] If the rally — which attracted an estimated 40,000 people in Moscow and thousands more in 110 other cities nationwide — had more than a whiff of Minsk to it, the sudden outburst of anti-government sentiment only a short walk from the Kremlin has put Russia in a similar bind to Mr Lukashenko.

Chechen Leaders Pledge ‘Help’ to Navalny Protester Who Clashed With Police – The Moscow Times – 1/25/2021
Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov has vowed to help an alleged compatriot who clashed with riot police at Saturday’s Moscow protest in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Chechen leader’s close adviser said Sunday. Widely circulated video showed the young man kicking and punching several baton-wielding officers before collapsing and being whisked off into the crowd. […] Adam Delimkhanov, a Russian federal lawmaker and Kadyrov’s right-hand man, took to social media to urge the suspect to turn himself in and receive legal assistance from the Russian region’s strongman leader. 

PACE to discuss Navalny arrest without adopting resolutions – TASS – 1/25/2021
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have voted to submit the issue of the Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny arrest after he arrived in Russia from Germany this January up for a discussion, the organization is broadcasting the meeting live.

Biden’s early moves on Russia underscore his challenges – Axios – 1/25/2021
The Biden administration has already proposed a five-year extension of the last treaty constraining the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, announced an urgent investigation into a massive Russia-linked cyberattack, and demanded the release of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexey Navalny. […] Those three steps in Biden’s first week underscore the challenge he faces from Vladimir Putin — an authoritarian intent on weakening the U.S. and its alliances, with whom he’ll nonetheless have to engage on critical issues.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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