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Russian opposition continues protests


Russian opposition continues protests

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Photo: Sergey Ponomarev/ NYT

Anti-government protests are expected today in major cities across Russia.

Since the arrest of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, tens of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets to protest the regime of President Vladimir Putin. Authorities responded by detaining approximately 11,000 people and handing down jail sentences to hundreds. Navalny ally Leonid Volkov has called for today’s Valentine’s Day demonstrations to take place at 20:00, for 15 minutes—modelling a rally format recently experimented with in Belarus.

While US President Biden and European leaders have threatened sanctions and demanded Navalny’s release, the greater threat to Putin’s government rests with growing popular discontent in a country long criticised for corruption and disregard of civil liberties. Volkov has expressed concern over the number of arrests and has cautioned for calm, but it is probable that in the short- to medium-term protests will continue and grow in size. This is especially likely if Moscow continues to make a martyr out of Navalny and refuses to release him. At the same time, broad, sweeping arrests as opposed to more targeted ones—or only nominal promises of reform—are unlikely to stymie those demanding change.

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