Published: Tue, March 28, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Who's Alexei Navalny, and why are Russians protesting? A primer

Defiant Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been jailed for 15 days over his role in a mass anti-corruption protest in Moscow.

In a statement, the European External Action Service (EEAS) said the detained citizens, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who were arrested during a series of anti-corruption protests, should be released as they had the right to gather peacefully and to free speech, Efe news reported.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of 20,000 rubles (£280) for organising an unsanctioned demonstration.

"The time will come when we will put them on trial (but fairly this time)", he wrote on Twitter ahead of the proceedings.

Artyom Chigadayev, an 18-year-old student, said he joined the protest in Yekaterinburg because of the allegations of Medvedev's amassed wealth, which he called "absolutely infernal".

Yesterday's protests were precipitated by an anti-corruption group's investigation into Russian prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev, alleging that he used phony companies and charities to build a massive empire of real estate and luxury goods for his own profit.

Thousands of Russians took to the streets to demonstrate against corruption on Sunday, March 26.

Guardian correspondent Alec Luhn was among those arrested, despite having Russian journalistic accreditation.

By 2011, when Russian Federation held a parliamentary election rife with fraud claims, Navalny had become prominent enough to be a galvanizing figure in the call for protests.

Police used excessive violence to shut down the massive Bolotnaya Square demonstration, one of the last of the 2012 protests, on the eve of Vladimir Putin's inauguration and detained hundreds, leading to long prison sentences for 13 people and a warped official narrative casting the protests as part of a broad conspiracy to destabilise Russian Federation. About 120 remained in custody overnight.

Asked about the Kremlin's reaction to the wide geography of the protests, something that has not been seen at least since 2012, Peskov said "the Kremlin is quite sober about the scale of yesterday's protests, and are not inclined to diminish them or push them out of proportion".

In Nizhny Novgorod, parents of five children who took part in the protests were charged with "improper parenting", according to Interfax news agency.

Washington echoed the sentiment, with State Department spokesman Mark Toner describing the arrests as an "affront to core democratic values".

On Monday, the European Union appealed to Russian authorities to release those still being held.

The Kremlin called the protest "a provocation and a lie", and claimed minors had been promised "financial rewards" to participate.

Authorities have struggled to deal with Navalny's threat.

One policeman was hospitalised after suffering a head injury during the Moscow rally, the interior ministry said. Although he has declared his intention to stand for president next year, it is unlikely he will be allowed on to the ballot.

Reuters cited opinion polls suggesting that the liberal opposition, which Mr. Navalny represents, have little chance of fielding a candidate capable of unseating Mr. Putin, who enjoys high ratings - but that Mr. Navalny and his supporters hope to channel public discontent over official corruption to attract more support.

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