Russia’s Mass Protests Met with Detentions and Police Violence

Photo: Elena Rostunova

In the past two weeks, Russia has been rocked by a series of mass protests, with more than approximately 550,000 people in total demonstrating across the country. Sparked by the arrest and subsequent trial of opposition politician, Alexey Navalny, Russians have faced detention and police violence to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Under the slogan, ‘Putin, Leave!’, protesters have expressed their discontent and frustration with the rampant and widespread corruption, and the growing restrictions on their human rights and fundamental freedoms.  

With hands held high in the air, shouting ‘we have no weapons’, demonstrators encountered police batons and brute force, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Vladivostok, protesters gathered on snow and ice fields, only to be chased off by security forces.

In total, more than 12,000 people have been detained, according to the monitoring group OVDinfo. There have been at least 100 press freedom violations, with journalists being detained and obstructed from doing their work.

Yesterday’s verdict against Navalny – a 2 year, 8 month  sentence in a penal colony – sparked more protests in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where police were already in place to crack down on the peaceful gatherings.

The right to peaceful assembly, among other civil and political rights, is largely curtailed in Russia, and these protests have been unauthorised actions. However, the mass detentions and instances of police use of excessive force are unacceptable. The authorities’ aggressive response to peaceful protesters across the country has been disproportionate and in violation of Russia’s international commitments to respect basic human rights.

We call on the Russian authorities to release all detained journalists and protesters immediately, and to cease the brutal crackdown that represents the ignominious actions of a government without credibility in the eyes of its people and the international community.

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