On Wednesday Police rounded up more than 1,700 protesters as Russians in dozens of cities have taken part in rallies organized by allies of hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny over his failing health in jail.
His spokesman was jailed for 10 days, and another close ally was detained. On the same day, President Vladimir Putin gave a state-of-the-nation speech warning Westerners not to cross Russia’s “red lines” and made no explicit mention of Mr. Navalny.
Many people say “This is one of the last breaths of a free Russia.”
Marina, a student protesting in Moscow said that we came out for Alexei against the war in Ukraine and wild propaganda.
A group called OVD-Info, which monitors protests and blockades, said 1,782 people had been arrested, including 604 in St. Petersburg and 119 in the Urals.
Protesters in central Moscow chanted “Navalny’s freedom!” And “Let the doctors in!”. Mr. Navalny’s wife, Yulia, attended the rally in the capital, where protesters chanted her name.
They called for mass demonstrations across Russia after President Vladimir Putin delivered a nationwide speech.
Officials said Navalny was taken as another detainee and condemned the protest as illegal.
Protesters, however, ignored Russian authorities’ call for them not to take part and gathered in about 100 cities and towns across the country, including the capital, Moscow, Vladivostok in the Far East, several Siberian cities, and the central city of Vladimir. Navalny is being held in a penalty colony.
Opponents had hoped the rallies would be the largest in modern Russia’s history and presented the authorities as trying to save Mr. Navalny’s life by allowing his doctors to treat him.
But turnout looked even less than the protests earlier this year before Mr. Navalny was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for violating parole, which he said was a politically motivated allegation of embezzlement.
Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, with Mr. Navalny’s YouTube channel saying the turnout in the capital was ten times higher. About 10,000-1-15,000 people had gathered and rallied in Moscow and 7,000-9,000 in St. Petersburg said Alexei Venediktov, a veteran journalist and head of the Echo Moscow radio station.
Mr. Navalny, 44, who survived a nerve agent attack last year for refusing to continue with Russian authorities, became thin and weak after starving to death for three weeks and his colleagues said he was at risk of kidney failure or cardiac arrest. The United States has warned Russia that if he dies, Russia will face “consequences”.
Tatiana Moskalkova the state’s human rights commissioner, said four doctors from outside the federal prison agency visited Mr. Navalny on Tuesday and found no serious health problems. He has been treated like any other prisoner says Russia.