New Delhi: On Saturday, more 3000 people were arrested as tens of thousands of people protested for Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent infamously used by the state in August last year.
According to a Reuters report, Navalny asked his supporters to protest, while the Russian police warned people from gathering saying they risked catching COVID-19 as well as prosecution and possible jail time for attending an unauthorised event. The protesters defied the orders and went ahead with the protest anyway, in the extreme cold where temperatures reached minus 50 as many as 40,000 people gathered gathered in one of the biggest unauthorised rallies for years.
Who is Alexei Navalny
Last weekend Navalny returned from Germany for the first time after being poisoned and he was arrested. Alexei Navalny is 44-year-old, lawyer turned activist who gained popularity in late 2000s for exposing the corruption of the government through his blogs. Navalny has openly criticized President Vladimir Putin, who has been the president since 2012. Navalny has been arrested multiple times because of his campaign against Putin.
In 2012, Putin ordered Russia’s Investigative Committee to launch a criminal inquiry into Navalny’s past. The following year the campaigner was charged and sentenced again, this time for five years, for alleged embezzlement in the city of Kirov but the following day he was released pending affirmation from a higher court and the sentence was later suspended.
Navalny even tried to formally run for president in 2016, but was barred running for the post after many allegations of corruptions were raised against him.
On 20 August 2020, he was allegedly poisoned with new variant of Novichok. During a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, he became violently ill and was taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing there, and put in a coma. He was evacuated to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany, two days later. The use of the nerve agent was confirmed by five Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) certified laboratories.
Though this isn’t the first time he was attacked by chemical substances. In 2018, Navalny was attacked with a bright green liquid in the Siberian city of Barnaul by an assailant who pretended to shake his hand. In 2019 he suffered an allergic reaction in jail, allegedly from an unknown chemical substance.
Currently, Navalny is in a Moscow prison pending the outcome of four legal matters he describes as trumped up.
Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, called on the protesters to do the same next weekend to try to free Navalny from what he called “the clutches of his killers” according to the Reuters report.
Navalny’s wife Yulia was briefly detained at the rally before being released. Some of Navalny’s political allies were detained in the days before the protest, others on the day itself. At one point, protesters surrounded a sleek black car with a flashing light used by senior officials, throwing snowballs at it and kicking it. A group of policemen were also pelted with snowballs by a much bigger crowd.