As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s election was widely considered rigged, opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who was arrested on Saturday, has called on activists to continue protesting.
Alexei Navalny, 2013 Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Evgeny Feldman/Novaya Gazeta
Alexei Navalny, an anti-Putin opposition activist who had previously been jailed, was arrested Saturday along with over 1,600 activists across Russia in a crackdown on protests before President Vladimir Putin’s 4th inauguration. He had called protests in more than 90 Russian towns and cities in response to what he says is Putin’s autocratic rule. Before his arrest, he led a chant calling for Putin’s downfall. Putin’s election victory, which he won last month by a huge landslide, will give him a 24-year tenure, which, if served in full, will be the longest rule since Joseph Stalin.
Putin’s election victory was viewed by many as fraudulent, and Navalny has challenged Putin’s right to continue ruling Russia. Navalny was denied the right to run in the election, based on what he claims are political pretexts. Video footage recorded by opposition activists showed police officers dragging him by four limbs into a van. He later tweeted that he was released pending a court date and criticized those who arrested him. He said he would continue planning protests through the week.
Opposition activists worry that he will be charged on false pretexts and have demanded transparency in the government’s policies on protesting. The Russian government has yet to address the anti-Putin protests across the country, and Western powers have indicated that no real choices were offered to the Russians in the election. Authorities have argued that protests that are not preapproved are considered illegal, but Navalny indicated that these tactics are not new and will not stop protesters from returning to the streets.