People in Russia
have staged separate anti-government rallies, including mostly unauthorized ones, in the country, expressing support for the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and clashing with police.
Demonstrators flocked to the streets in some 80 cities in Russia on Saturday, demanding the release of Navalny and that he be allowed to stand in the 2018 presidential election.
A local court last week accused Navalny of repeatedly violating laws on the organization of public meetings and sentenced the opposition leader to a mere twenty days in jail.
The anti-government rallies coincided with President Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday, and most were unauthorized, including those in the capital, Moscow, and St. Petersburg.
“Coming out on streets means first of all our will and desire to move forward, to challenge the stagnation that exists in our country’s political life,” a protester said.
The supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend a rally next to the monument of author Alexander Pushkin in Moscow, Russia, October 7, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
In Moscow, an estimated 3,000 people gathered at Pushkinskaya Square under heavy police presence, chanting, “Putin will leave! We will not!” and “Happy birthday!”
Violence erupted after police called on the protesters to disperse and they refused, with some marching toward the Kremlin, which had been cordoned off by police.
Russians responded to Navalny’s call for protests against alleged corruption across the country in March and June this year.
Russian police officers detain a supporter of opposition leader Alexei Navalny during an unauthorized rally in Saint Petersburg on October 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Putin hopes to run in the presidential election in March 2018 even as Russia’s central election commission has declared him ineligible because of a suspended prison sentence, which he says was handed down to him for political reasons.
Navalny has been arrested before over various charges, including embezzlement and fraud.
In recent months, Navalny has traveled across Russia in a bid to bolster his makeshift election campaign.
Putin has yet to announce if he would seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run, and with his current approval ratings that surpass 80 percent, he is set to easily win another six-year term in office.