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Russia: crackdown on Navalny mourners shows authorities trying to erase him from history

At least 387 people have been arrested in 39 cities across Russia

People arrested for having Navalny photos in their possession

‘The authorities are seeking to expunge his name from the history books’ - Oleg Kozlovsky

The Russian authorities have begun a widespread campaign of persecution against those paying their respects to the late prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny, said Amnesty International today, as peaceful mourners across the country have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, put on trial and jailed.

At least 387 people have been arrested in 39 cities across Russia over their participation in memorial activities for Navalny following his death in custody on Friday, according to the protest watchdog OVD-Info. 

In Saint Petersburg alone, more than 200 people have reportedly been arrested simply for gathering peacefully to pay their respects. In Saint Petersburg, the courts have also imposed so-called “administrative detentions” on at least 26 people who were arbitrarily arrested at events commemorating Navalny, accusing them of “disobeying a lawful order of a police officer”, “violation of the established procedure for organising or holding an assembly” and other alleged offences.

In Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, a group of political activists were forced to cancel an indoor memorial event for Navalny after facing police intimidation. In Barnaul, in South Siberia, 19-year-old poet Artem Sakharov was sentenced to 30 days in detention for the “repeated violation” of the rules of a public event. He was arrested yesterday while laying flowers at a monument to victims of Soviet repression. 

Similarly, Boris Kazadayev and Ilya Povyshev were arrested in Moscow yesterday after law-enforcement officers discovered photographs of Navalny in one of their backpacks. They were stopped near an impromptu memorial for opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, near the location where he was shot dead in 2015. OVD-Info reported that on the third day of memorial events for Navalny in Moscow police selectively searched attendees at memorials and confiscated photographs of him as well as notes bearing his name.

Oleg Kozlovsky, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said: 

“The crackdown we are witnessing following Aleksei Navalny’s death in custody is not only a tragic reminder of what he fought against but also a clear indication that the Russian authorities are aiming to erase his memory. 

“These callous acts are not only shockingly insensitive, but they are also a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. 

“The removal of photos of Navalny and the swift dismantling of memorial events across the country, sometimes directly in front of mourners, reveals how the authorities are seeking to expunge his name from the history books.

“Amnesty International calls on the Russian authorities to immediately cease its insensitive campaign against those paying tribute to Aleksei Navalny, immediately release all those detained solely for mourning or protesting peacefully, and ensure accountability for the abuses perpetrated against them.

“These are not isolated incidents, but part of a countrywide campaign to silence dissent and instil fear across the nation.”

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