Last Saturday, the streets of Far East, and Siberia, Moscow, and even St. Petersburg in Russia witnessed tens of thousands of Russians rallying in support of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who is currently in prison. History says that this is definitely one of the biggest Russian protests to be seen in years. Demonstrators were present in more than 100 cities in support of the jailed opposition leader.
On the island of Sakhalin in Russia, hundreds in the crowd roared and hailed “Putin is a thief” in front of the regional government building. The protests then spread to Yakutsk in the biting cold of minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Later as the night dawned, the public attacked the police with snowballs. They also attacked the cars belonging to the local intelligence agency in Moscow.
From young teenagers to elderly people, the Russian protests witnessed demands to free Mr Navalny. It was estimated that more than 40,000 people joined the rallies in Moscow.
Sergei Radchenko, a 53-year-old protester in Moscow, told Reuters: "I'm tired of being afraid. I haven't just turned up for myself and Navalny, but for my son, because there is no future in this country.
The city of Pushkin square saw protestors chanting “Freedom to Navaly” and Putin go away. According to BBC, a woman described that she decided to join the demonstration as Russia had turned into a Prison camp.
This retaliation resulted in several arrests by the Russian government and police. According to the Russian civil rights portal OVD-info, by late evening in Moscow, more than 3000 people had been detained and arrested in at least 109 cities. Yet the demonstrators displayed immense solidarity for the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.
More so, fearless citizens and supporters promised to return back with a stronger agitation in the coming week. On a live broadcast on YouTube Leonid Volkov,
one of a close ally to Mr. Navalny said “If Putin thinks the most frightening things are behind him, he is very sorely and naïvely mistaken.”
But the question here is who is Aleksei A. Navalny, and what has got to do with the suddenly sparked Russian protests?
To talk about the man for whom these protests were ignited, Alexi Navalny is a 44-year-old Russian opposition leader and politician. He is also a renowned anti-corruption activist with international acclaim. Navalny is known for his involvement in demonstrations and activities to widely vocalize corruption present in Russia. He is also known to mobilize people against the ruling government and President Putin.
Back in 2011, he called for all the Russians to unite against Putin. This was done so that Putin fails to achieve victory in the presidential elections of March 2012. Thus on the 24th of December 2011, he organized a demonstration where he hailed to the crowd "I see enough people to take the Kremlin right now". However, Putin did manage to be elected. Thus, in March 2012, Navalny led an Anti-Putin rally in Moscow with an attendance of 14,000-20,000 people. Hence, he turns out to be a strong critic of the Russian President and his government.
The Wall Street Journal calls him `` the man Vladimir Putin fears most”, as Navalny actively uses all his platforms with millions of followers to condemn and criticize Mr Putin’s United Russia party. He has over 6 million Youtube subscribers and over 2 million Twitter followers.
This anti-corruption activist also describes Putin’s party to be full of “crooks and thieves” and alleges the Russian leader of “sucking the blood out of Russia” by concentrating power in the Kremlin through a feudal state.
Since he began his political campaigning, he has actively conducted nationwide anti corruptions rallies and protests in Russia. He is the prominent face of opposition in a country that is known to eliminate its spies and dissidents by poisoning them. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
However, he has been arrested by the Russian authorities multiple times in the past. In 2018, due to a court conviction for embezzlement. Navalny was barred from challenging Mr. Putin at the ballot box.
In August 2020, he was hospitalized in a very serious condition as he was sickened with a nerve agent during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. This was not the first time he was poisoned. Two years prior, his hands were soaked with a bright green liquid in Barnaul. This was done by an assailant who pretended to shake his hand. There was no open criminal investigation conducted. The Kremlin too has denied any participation in this activity.
Navalny, last month claimed to have tricked a Russian intelligence operative to confess his role played in the attempts to kill Navalny in August 2020. The Russian government and Putin have openly denied these claims. Putin once mockingly even told the media that if Russian operatives wanted to kill Navalny, “they would have probably finished the job.” He also alleged that Navalny “relies on the support of US special services.”