Supporters of Russian activist Navalny gather in central Moscow to form Valentine’s Day “Solidarity Chain” (PHOTO, VIDEO)
Some 240 women hung on a long white ribbon to form a human chain on an iconic pedestrian street in Moscow on Sunday. It was part of a protest organized by supporters of Western-leaning opposition figure Alexey Navalny.
The rally, in central Arbat street, coincided with Valentine’s Day and was dubbed “Love is stronger than fear.” Some of the participants received flowers, balloons and flyers with black hearts.
Those involved told reporters that “chain of solidarity” was aimed at supporting the numbers they called “Women political prisoners” detained in Russia.
Many younger participants struggled to name “detained” women in particular. Meanwhile, others have mentioned Navalny Yulia’s wife and close collaborator Lubov Sobol as well as Pussy Riot activist Maria Alekhina. However, none of them are actually in prison.
Yulia Navalnaya left the country for Germany earlier this week. Her husband was sentenced in early February to two and a half years in prison for violation of parole. Sobol was under house arrest for two months for calling for mass protests in violation of Covid-19 restrictions.
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The unauthorized rally in central Moscow took place without any significant police presence and had no incidents or arrests. After the action ended, a woman apparently overseeing the action rolled up the white ribbon and the protesters picked up all the trash they left on the street.
A similar “chain of solidarity” was formed on Sunday in Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg. The rally saw 70 people participate and was also peaceful.
Moscow and St. Petersburg both saw heated protests, with clashes and arrests over two weekends, after Navalny was arrested on his return from Berlin to Russia in mid-January. The anti-corruption activist spent five months in Germany recovering from a poisoning attempt organized by the Kremlin – a charge categorically denied by Russian authorities, who say no evidence of poisoning has been provided by Berlin, despite repeated requests.
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Following several unauthorized protests ending in mass arrests, Navalny associates called on supporters to refrain from taking to the streets and to postpone rallies at least until spring. The decision came after their movement quickly lost momentum, with noticeably smaller crowds on the second weekend.
However, this week they announced a slight change in tactics, urging people to organize small, localized protests by going out into their backyards and using a torch, candle or their phone light to show their displeasure with the government, reflecting one of the ideas of protesters from neighboring Belarus.
Photos showing small groups of people holding torches in the snow have since appeared on social media.
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