With less than a year before Russia’s nex presidential election, vocal anti-Putin critic Alexei Navalny found himself arrested yet again as protests start to bubble up throughout the country.
Navalny, Russia’s most prominent anti-Kremlin opposition leader announced his bid for the 2018 presidency back in December, and was one of the dozens of people arrested in the latest string of anti-Kremlin protests to take place in Moscow on the country’s national holiday.
Authorities arrested Navalny after he called for his protest to be moved to Moscow’s central Tverskaya street, despite being ordered to hold it in specific, out-of-the-way locations.
He claimed that authorities prevented his team of contractors from installing sound equipment for the gathering as they had planned.
“We have our constitutional right to gather peacefully with political demands,” Navalny said of the move on his YouTube channel. Security official Vladimir Chernikov told a Moscow radio station that the city did everything they could to make sure the protests could take place.
After thousands of people started marching through the center of the city chanting “Russia without Putin,” “shame,” and “Down with the Czar,” the police started trying to disperse the crowd by handing out arrests. Even before the protest started, police detained Navalny as he exited his apartment.
Over more than a decade of political organising, Navalny has repeatedly been in and out of courts as the Kremlin tried to suppress his attempts to set off protests. In the months leading up to Russia’s presidential election, Navalny has amped up his protesting against Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and corruption in the Kremlin.
Back in March, thousands of people came out to anti-Putin protests across the country that Navalny helped spearhead through his social media outlets. The stunt landed him in jail for 15 days.
After the latest arrest, Navalny’s wife Yulia tweeted a photo from her husband’s account of her husband being led away in police vans with the caption “Happy Russia Day!”
As Russia’s election draws near, the Kremlin has stepped up its efforts to curb any anti-government demonstrations. After Monday’s protest, Moscow’s city hall said it would arrest those who those who gather in the center of the city with posters “of a political nature” or shout any anti-Kremlin slogans.
Navalny’s bid to run for president, once seen largely as a joke given the Kremlin’s political stronghold, has clearly agitated the Russian government to the point of cracking down on every kind of political gatherings and taking him seriously.
“[Navalny] is a long shot at best, and the Kremlin may not even allow him on the ballot,” wrote The Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe back in March. “Yet he showed he has real political power and that tens of thousands of people across the country see him as a legitimate leader.”
While it is unclear just how far Navalny can get in his efforts against the Kremlin, he has again demonstrated his ability to set forth national waves government opposition.
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