On Sunday, January 28, more than a hundred Russian cities saw protests organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny in support of a “voter strike”, a strategy to boycott the upcoming presidential elections. The Interior Ministry and the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights estimated that there were 4,500-5,000 protesters across the country, whereas Navalny’s supporters believe that there were considerably more. In Moscow the calculation is further complicated by the fact that columns of protesters gathered in several locations on Tverskaya Street, and the organizers did not suggest a single route of movement.
According to OVD Info, more than 250 people were arrested during the protest. In Moscow and St. Petersberg, police primarily arrested Navalny’s activists and volunteers, including the opposition leader himself, whereas in the Russian provincial regions the arrests concerned ordinary protesters.
In Cheboksary alone, where the protest had not been coordinated with the local authorities, more than 50 people were arrested, most of whom were released several hours later. From several provincial regions there were reports of detainees being beaten at police stations and threatened with criminal prosecution.
Neither the federal channels of Russian TV nor the politicians loyal to the government commented on the protest. One exception was Russian presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who went out onto Tverskaya Street and said that he had participated in similar protests 30 years ago. In response, he was challenged to withdraw his candidacy from the elections. Ksenia Sobchak, another candidate in the presidential elections, traveled to Chechnya on the same day, where she held a picket for the release of Oyub Titiev, head of the local “Memorial”.