Kremlin critic Navalny receives some love on Valentine’s Day with lightning protests
Alexey Navalny’s allies showed solidarity by rallying outside their homes across Russia for 15 minutes on Valentine’s Day, flashing their cell phone torches and arranging heart-shaped candles.
Supporters of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny staged candlelit rallies in residential courtyards across Russia despite warnings they could be arrested.
Navalny’s allies have declared a moratorium on street rallies until spring after police have arrested thousands of people in recent weeks during protests against the opposition politician’s arrest and imprisonment.
But they wanted the Russians to show solidarity with Navalny by meeting outside their homes for 15 minutes on Sunday night, lighting up their cell phone torches and arranging heart-shaped candles.
People on social media posted pictures of themselves holding candles or phones with flickering flashlights across Russia, including in the eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg in the mountains of Russia. ‘Urals and Novosibirsk in Western Siberia.
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However, the vigils were mostly small and sporadic, unlike the huge street protests of recent weeks.
Navalny was arrested last month on his return from Germany after being treated for poisoning with what many Western countries say is a nerve agent. He was jailed on February 2 for parole violation on what he said were trumped up charges.
He accuses President Vladimir Putin of poisoning, and Western countries are considering new sanctions against Russia. The Kremlin denies any involvement and questions whether Navalny was poisoned.
“Putin is fear. Navalny is love. That is why we will win,” Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s close allies, wrote on Twitter in a call to rally on Sunday.
Volkov, who is based in Lithuania, is one of Navalny’s many allies currently abroad or under house arrest in Russia.
He urged people to flood social media with photos of Sunday’s rallies – a new venture for the opposition that looks like political actions in neighboring Belarus – using the hashtag #loveisstrongerthanfear in Russian.
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Another activist called on women to form a human chain in Moscow on Sunday afternoon to support Navalny’s wife Yulia, who allegedly flew to Germany this week, and other women affected by the crackdown policewoman against the demonstrators.
More than 100 women showed up at the Arbat in central Moscow to form the chain, braving the freezing cold and holding a white ribbon more than 100 meters long.
“I really hope this will change things for the better, I sincerely want it,” said a woman from the channel in Moscow.
Another smaller chain was formed in St. Petersburg.
There were no large-scale arrests or clashes with the police.
Protest watch group OVD-Info said nine people were arrested in the city of Kazan, some 820 km (510 miles) east of Moscow, following a rally against the crackdown. Six of them had already been released.
Russian law enforcement officials said on Thursday that those participating in unauthorized gatherings could face criminal charges.
Rights groups have accused police of using disproportionate force against protesters in recent weeks. The Kremlin denied the police crackdown and said the protests were illegal because they were not approved and risked spreading Covid-19.
Putin blamed the pandemic for fueling the protests and tried to downplay Navalny’s role. Speaking at a meeting of mostly pro-government media editors last week, Putin declined to call Navalny by name, calling him a “defendant.”
“This accused is being used as the fatigue of people is emerging all over the world, including in our country,” he said. “The irritation has accumulated, people have become unhappy with their living conditions, the level of income.”
Navalny was indeed an outlet for anger against authorities over the pandemic, he said.
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