Posted on January 23, 2021, at 2:59 p.m. ET
Vasily Maximov / Getty Images
Thousands of Russians across 200 cities spanning from Moscow to Siberia braved sub-zero temperatures and police brutality during pro-democracy protests in the country on Saturday.
The demonstrations came in response to the attempted assassination and subsequent arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which sparked ire among Russian citizens.
From Vladivostok to Kaliningrad (10 000 km in between), from towns, Siberia like Irkuts to southern Sochi came to the streets. There are not enough independent media outside Moscow to know in details the mood there, yet it's telling #Navalny
Navalny was poisoned in August last year and transferred to Germany for treatment, where doctors confirmed that the chemical agent Novichok was used. Navalny then helped investigate his own assassination together with Bellingcat, a news outlet. He famously phoned an FSB agent involved and tricked him into a confession.
The opposition leader returned to Russia on Jan. 17, where he was immediately arrested. His team published another investigation two days later, which purportedly shows President Vladimir Putin’s palace on the Black Sea. The investigation came alongside calls from Navalny to protest on Jan. 23, which were resoundingly heeded.
Kirill Kudryavtsev / Getty Images
There have been over 3,000 arrests across the country, including of 16 reporters, according to protest-tracking website OVD-Info, the most in the last four years. It’s not known how many people across the country participated, but videos and images show what appears to be tens of thousands of people in the streets.
Donat Sorokin / Donat Sorokin/TASS
In Siberia, people protested in -60F weather.
@ioannZH shares photo of Navalny protest in Yakutia, where its -50 c
In Irkutsk, a small city bordering Mongolia, thousands filled the streets.
Иркутск: «Мы не уйдём!»
Protesters also lined the streets to the Kremlin in Moscow.
Lots and lots of people on sidewalks of Tverskaya, leading to Pushkinskaya square and the Kremlin. This must be the biggest anti-Putin rally in years. People are enraged.
And thousands marched in St. Petersburg.
A very big crowd in St Petersburg protesting for Navalny today.
Protesters in Moscow threw snowballs at nearby police officers.
У цирка на Трубной полицейских забросали снежками, те явно растерялись
Видео: Юля Сугуева / Медиазона
But it didn’t take long for police to use force during the protests, which had previously been deemed illegal.
One video shows a woman getting kicked in the stomach. According to the news outlet Mediazona, the woman had a concussion and was taken to the hospital.
ОМОНовец ударил женщину в живот ногой, когда она пыталась помочь задержанному парню.
In another video, police are seen harassing a small child as the crowd yells for him to be let go.
Жесть какая. Это увидит вся страна.
One reporter, who was arrested and subsequently released, recorded people being beaten on police busses.
В автобусе бьют
And another video shows a woman being taken away by two men in civilian clothes.
В Пятигорске двое мужчин в гражданском задержали протестующего. Нет, ну а что https://t.co/fQude8YZlH
The US Embassy in Russia tweeted in support of the protests, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs later labeled the tweet “hypocrisy.”
We're watching reports of protests in 38 Russian cities, arrests of 350+ peaceful protesters and journalists. The U.S. supports the right of all people to peaceful protest, freedom of expression. Steps being taken by Russian authorities are suppressing those rights.
The striking photos and videos largely show protesters banding together against the police, sometimes appealing to their conscience.
Undaunted by the police response and governmental condemnation, Navalny’s organization called for more protests next week.
“This was the first step on the road to victory,” the Anti-Corruption Foundation tweeted. “See you again in a week.”