Over 400 reported arrested in Navalny rallies across Russia

Tanya Simon
April 22, 2021

A Russian police officer speaks with an opposition supporter holding a poster reading "No war, repressions and tortures!" during a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in Vladivostok on April 21, 2021. The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats expelled, targeted dozens of companies and individuals, and imposed new curbs on Russia's ability to borrow money.

Addressing the Federal Assembly, Putin said "the meaning and content" of Russia's policy in the worldwide arena is "to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of the country".

As Putin spoke, a wave of protests started rolling across Russia's far east in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a human rights group said over 400 were arrested.

Those who organize provocations against Russia will come to regret it, warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Police conducted raids at Navalny's regional offices in the cities of Krasnodar and Kurgan, according to OVD-Info, which monitors protests and activist detentions.

"But if someone takes our good intentions as indifference or weakness and aims to fully burn or even detonate these bridges himself, he should know that Russia's response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough", he said.

The protesters are demanding that Navalny, who launched a hunger strike three weeks ago, be freed or at least given proper medical treatment after his doctors said his health was failing and he could die "at any minute".

In the speech, Putin said Moscow would respond swiftly and harshly to moves against its interests.

"But I hope that no one will think of crossing the so-called red line in relation to Russian Federation".

"Russia has its own interests, which we will defend in line with the global law", Putin said during Wednesday's address.

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Much of Putin's speech was devoted to new social spending, as he looked to shore up support for his deeply unpopular United Russia party ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Putin went as far as accusing the West of staging massive sabotage and even trying to murder embattled Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, supporting the embattled leader's claims that his security services had thwarted an alleged U.S. plot to assassinate him.

Police said 6,000 people had gathered in the capital. Earlier in the day, the Yekaterinburg city authorities said that the number of protesters was about 5,000. "We need to fight this darkness".

Navalny was detained when he returned to Russian Federation in January after months recovering in Germany from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning he blames on the Kremlin - an accusation it rejects.

He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years on old fraud charges his supporters say were politically motivated and has been serving time in a penal colony about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's staunchest critic, declared a hunger strike on March 31 to demand access to better medical care.

Doctors over the weekend warned that the 44-year-old's health was deteriorating to such an extent he could die at "any minute", while the United States threatened Russian Federation with "consequences" in the event of his death.

"We believe Mr Navalny's life is in serious danger", warned the four independent experts on the issues of freedom of expression, torture, extrajudicial executions and the right to physical and mental health.

"We believe Mr Navalny's life is in serious danger", they warned, calling on Russian authorities to allow Navalny "to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment overseas".

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