Navalny supporters jailed after Russian protests

Moscow: Russian opposition demonstrators were handed fines and jail time on Tuesday after nationwide anti-corruption protests called by leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was slapped with a 30-day sentence. Over 1,700 people were detained at Monday’s demonstrations, mainly in the capital Moscow and Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg, but the Kremlin said police had acted correctly and slammed the “dangerous” actions of protesters.
Criminal probes into violence against police were launched though protesters said it was the authorities who used excessive force.
Many protesters spent the night in police stations and were shuttled to court for violating demonstration regulations that could see them spend up to 15 days in jail.
At court in Moscow, 19-year-old Roman said he was grabbed by five riot policemen before being bundled into a van with 20 others.
“They put me in an arm lock and hit me in the stomach,” said the student, who could face a fine after attending his first unauthorised rally.
Others were less lucky, with at least 10 people sentenced to up to 15 days in custody in Moscow and Saint Petersburg by early afternoon.
The Moscow protest was originally sanctioned in a different location but Navalny changed the venue, saying the authorities were blocking efforts to hire a stage and sound equipment. He called on supporters to go to the arterial Tverskaya Street instead.
He himself never made it to the protest as police arrested him in the stairwell of his apartment building before the rally began.
“I’m sorry that I called everyone to the rally and couldn’t participate myself, spending all this time in court,” Navalny said in a video message filmed on his cell phone. “You were awesome, I’m proud to be in this movement with you.”
The 41-year-old has announced his intention to run for president against Vladimir Putin and has been campaigning relentlessly around Russia while also mounting a strong online presence via YouTube videos, attracting a younger generation, including minors.
“It has become definitively clear that the makeup (of the protesters) has changed in favour of the youth,” said Ekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
“Participation of the young brings new meaning to any protest. We have considered this generation… to be loyal and conformist, but it demonstrated it is ready to go to the streets.”
“Everything is developing very fast and we cannot predict how it will influence the presidential elections,” she said.
Tverskaya Street on the day of the protest hosted a reenactment festival with participants in historical costumes to mark the Russia Day public holiday.
As a result there were surreal scenes with demonstrators shouting slogans as people in period outfits held sword fights. — AFP