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Russia: mass arrests of Navalny supporters shows depth of human rights crisis

Riot police in Saint Petersburg yesterday © AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 1,800 arrests yesterday on top of 11,000 earlier this year

Navalny’s release and independent medical treatment urgently needed 

‘There are simply not enough jail cells to lock up and silence every critical voice in Russia’ - Natalia Zviagina

Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of Navalny protesters detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the immediate release of Aleksei Navalny himself who is being arbitrarily detained and denied access to independent healthcare.  

Yesterday, the Russian authorities unleashed a crackdown on peaceful protesters demanding Navalny’s release, arresting nearly 1,800 people and using excessive force - including Tasers - at demonstrations around the country. 

According to police watchdog OVD-Info, at least 1,786 protesters were taken into custody across Russia, with 805 detentions in Saint Petersburg alone. The authorities in Moscow and other cities denied permits for the rallies, claiming they violated COVID-19 restrictions. 
 
Law-enforcement agents also made “preventive” detentions - including of Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman; Lyubov Sobol, lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation; Vladimir Ryzhkov, former State Duma deputy; and Yefim Khazanov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They have been charged with calling for the participation in an “unauthorised” demonstration, an administrative offence in Russia. 

This was the fourth mass protest by Navalny’s supporters after his unlawful arrest and imprisonment earlier this year. During the three previous protests - on 23 and 31 January, and 2 February - more than 11,000 people were arrested, an unprecedented number even in Russia where dissent is systematically silenced. More than 100 criminal cases have been opened against protesters.

Amnesty is reiterating its call for the immediate release of Aleksei Navalny and for the withdrawal of a prosecutorial request to ban his organisations as “extremist”. 

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said: 
 
“With every peaceful protester they arrest, the Russian authorities plunge the country deeper into a human rights crisis. 

“Their attempts to trample dissent into dust are growing increasingly desperate - from the ongoing detention of Navalny and the effort to ban his movement by branding it ‘extremist’, to the violent targeting and mass arrest of his supporters.  
 
“There are simply not enough jail cells to lock up and silence every critical voice in Russia. 

“The Russian authorities’ shocking crackdown on basic freedoms cannot continue - the whole world is watching.” 

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