Russia warns of “unauthorized” protests in the courtyard before a light show of love for Navalny
Moscow – Authorities have warned Russians not to attend local Valentine’s Day shows this weekend in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The Navalny team asked the supporters of the Kremlin critic to hold up their cell phone flashlights for a few minutes on Sunday evening in the courtyards in front of their residential buildings in Russian cities and then to post photos of the display online in a protest action synchronized by the organizers: “Dear is stronger than fear. ”
Navalny, 44, wasImmediately after his return to Russia from Germany, he recovered for five months from poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.
A series of large anti-government rallies across Russia,, followed the dissident’s sentencing earlier this month to two years and eight months in prison for dismissing him as politically motivated. Navalny has accused President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering his poisoning and having him prosecuted. The Kremlin has denied all allegations.
Navalny was back in court on Friday, this time for allegedly defaming a World War II veteran on social media comments on a video promoting a vote on amendments to the Russian constitution.
The Valentine’s Day flash mob protests are seen as an attempt to avoid direct confrontation with authorities after an estimated 11,000 people were arrested in street demonstrations across the country over the past few weeks. Many high-ranking opposition figures, close allies of Navalany, were rounded up and arrested.
Separately, a team of feminist activists announced a “chain of solidarity and love” in central Moscow on Sunday afternoon in support of Navalny’s wife Julia and other Russian women they say have faced political persecution. Organizers said in a statement that the human chain format was inspired by the Belarusian women who used it to protest police brutality and call for fair elections last year.
Yulia Navalnaya is said to have left Moscow for Frankfurt this week. The German press said it came to the country on a private visit without going into detail. She did not respond to requests for comments. Yulia was among the people who were repeatedly arrested by police during the recent protests, but was later released.
It was clear to the organizers of the backyard protests that they wanted a peaceful demonstration of support for Navalny. The reluctant plans were even ridiculed by some opposition supporters online, but the Russian authorities seemed to see this as an appropriate protest.
Law enforcement agencies have warned Russians not to participate in unauthorized “mass actions”.
“We urge citizens not to take part in unauthorized rallies,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, which the opposition saw as a reaction to their plans.
The Attorney General’s Office and the National Committee of Inquiry made similar statements, reminding people that they could be prosecuted for participating in unauthorized protests and for violating the law-related restrictions.
The Kremlin said earlier this week that it would not “play cat and mouse” with activists but that the authorities would be ready to respond.
“Our law enforcement officers will bring the perpetrators to justice if they break the law,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoy of the ruling pro-Putin party compared Navalny’s supporters to World War II defectors and Nazi collaborators, saying they used flashlights to illuminate targets for the German Air Force.
Two Russian state news outlets brought comments from undisclosed law enforcement agencies that issued dire warnings that Islamist militant groups were planning criminal acts during “mass street actions” in the country.
“If you want peace, then prepare for war”
Navalny’s conviction and the reaction of the Russian state to the mass protests that followedto a new low. Senior officials in Europe and the United States have threatened to impose new sanctions – threats which Moscow has met with characteristic dismissals and ridicule.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is ready to sever ties with the European Union if the bloc pushes economic sanctions.
“We do not want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we have to be prepared for it. If you want peace, prepare for war,” Lavrov said when asked whether Moscow could cut ties with the EU completely.
His comments were reiterated later on Friday by Kremlin spokesman Peskov, who told reporters Moscow must be ready to replace any major infrastructure that could be removed due to foreign sanctions.