The Russian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release scores of peaceful protesters detained today and investigate allegations that the police used abusive force in Saint Petersburg and Yakutsk, Amnesty International said today.
“The Kremlin’s intent is clear – to choke the life out of the protest movement – but it has also become clear in recent months that this reproachful goal cannot be achieved. Peaceful protest is a right, and many people in Russia want to exercise that right. The Russian authorities must immediately begin to respect and protect the rights of these protesters, pure and simple,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.
On 7 October, the birthday of President Vladimir Putin, thousands of people took to the streets to call for the release of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, and to call for him and other opposition politicians to be allowed to participate in the March 2018 presidential elections.
With over 70 cities and towns participating, the main event was held in Putin’s hometown, Saint Petersburg. Protestors’ requests to assemble there were rejected. The authorities made it clear that Navalny’s applications for any future protests in St. Petersburg would also be rejected.
By 20.00 Moscow time at least 66 protesters had been detained in Saint Petersburg alone, and 196 more in other cities and towns across the country.
This is the third mass protest organized by Aleksei Navalny and his supporters across dozens of cities and towns this year. The two previous events – on March 26 and June 12 – ended in mass detentions.
On 2 October, days before the current protest, Aleksei Navalny was sentenced to 20 days in administrative detention for “repeated calls for participation in an unauthorised public assembly” in connection with a rally in Nizhnii Novgorod on 29 September.
His chief of campaigns, Leonid Volkov, was also sentenced to 20 days in administrative detention, on the same grounds. On 5 October, Leonid Volkov was released early on appeal, only to be detained again later that day. A new 20-day detention period was imposed on him after the court found his tweets calling on people to take part in protests on 7 October a violation of Russian law.
Amnesty International has previously called for the immediate release of both Navalny and Volkov.