Russian police violence under investigation after mass arrests of Navalny protests

More than 3,300 protesters were arrested during demonstrations in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a supervisor reported on Sunday as prosecutors investigated possible violence “by law enforcement.”

Police clashed with demonstrators in Moscow, when tens of thousands took to the streets across the country on Saturday after Navalnys call to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Putin’s most charismatic critics were arrested at a Moscow airport on arrival a week ago from Germany, where he had recovered from an almost fatal poisoning with a nerve agent.

OVD Info, which monitors opposition rallies, said on Sunday that police had arrested at least 3,324 protesters in dozens of cities, with 1,320 people detained in Moscow and 490 in the other city of St. Petersburg.

It was the largest number of detentions at opposition meetings in the history of modern Russia.

Saturday’s protests received an unparalleled geographical scale spanning more than 100 cities across the country. A number of protesters were injured during the meetings in the capital and St. Petersburg.

Prosecutors in St. Petersburg said in a statement late Saturday that they were investigating violations including “by law enforcement” and the use of force against an unidentified woman.

The statement was released after local media published a video showing a middle-aged woman falling to the ground after being kicked by riot police.

The video shows a woman – identified as Margarita Yudina – asking three police officers in full riot gear why they imprisoned a young unarmed protester. One of the police kicks her in the stomach yet.

A representative of St. Petersburg Hospital Dzhanelidze said Yudina was in hospital on Saturday night with a head injury.

“She is in a serious condition,” the hospital representative told AFP on Sunday. “She is in intensive care.”

International condemnation

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that the arrest of thousands of people in Russia during meetings in support of Navalny jeopardized the rule of law and called for sanctions against Russia.

“The success of the demonstrations over Russian territory is impressive,” Le Drian told France Inter radio on Sunday, saying he was concerned about the country’s authoritarian operation.

The United States condemned what it described as “harsh tactics” used against protesters and journalists and demanded Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional” release.

“We urge the Russian authorities to release all those detained in order to exercise their public rights,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

After disturbing events in #Russia. I deplore extensive deprivation of liberty, disproportionate use of force, cuts to internet and telephone connections.

We will discuss next Monday with EU Foreign Ministers #FAC

– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) January 23, 2021

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a Twitter post that he lamented the authorities’ “disproportionate use of force”, while Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned “the use of force against peaceful protesters and journalists”.

( Jowharwith AFP, REUTERS)