“I’m not afraid because we are the majority. We mustn’t be scared by clubs because the truth is on our side.”
Protester Leonid Martynow on the second weekend of widespread protests in Russia against the jailing of one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics, Alexei Navalny. Reportedly, Russia arrested more than 5,000 demonstrators.
- Tens of thousands of protesters stormed the streets all over the country, including marching to the jail where Navalny is held. Moscow all but locked down the city ahead of time–shuttering restaurants, shops, some subway stations and bus travel.
- What are the protesters fighting for?
- The release of Navalny, a blogger or “anti-corruption campaigner” with a mass following amid younger generations. He has been jailed since mid-January when he returned to the country after a suspected poisoning left him in a coma for about two weeks and nearly killed him last year. A German military lab identified the substance as a Soviet-era nerve gas agent. Navalny’s team blamed Russia, but the Kremlin has denied the allegations.
- The resignation of Putin. This comes after a video released by Navalny’s team revealed a Black Sea estate reportedly built for the Russian President, including a hookah lounge and casino. This sparked outrage due to the widespread poverty throughout the country.
- How is the United States responding? President Biden’s Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, took to Twitter urging Navalny’s release: “The U.S. condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities.” The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. government of fanning the flames by encouraging the protests.
- Why It Matters: The Associated Press described the protests as “the largest, most widespread discontent Russia has seen in the years.” Putin has been President since 2012—but has been in high public office off and on since 1999. The disagreement between the U.S. and Russia over the handling of the protests adds friction to an already complicated relationship.