Navalny's Team Announces Spring Push, Aims For Massive Rally To Free Kremlin Critic
By RFE/RL March 23, 2021
The team of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny is making a new push to free the anti-corruption campaigner with plans for the largest anti-Kremlin protest in Russia's modern history.
In an announcement on Navalny's website on March 23, the team said the date and site of the rally will be announced once at least 500,000 people express their willingness to participate.
The group also launched a special website to register those who would like to take part in the event as part of the push to get Navalny released from prison.
Leonid Volkov, the coordinator of Navalny's network of teams, said that some 60,000 people had signed up to the event within hours of the website going operational.
"You know who our biggest enemy is? No, not Putin. Putin can't stop the wonderful Russia of the future however much he wants to. Our main enemy is indifference, apathy and apoliticism," Volkov said.
Navalny's associates and supporters have been under pressure since the 44-year-old Kremlin critic was arrested on January 17 as he arrived from Germany where he had ben treated for a poisoning attack with what was determined by several European labs as a Novichok-like nerve agent.
Thousands rallied across Russia on January 23 and January 31 in protest at Navalny's detention. Police violently put down the protests, arresting almost 10,000 people in the process.
On February 2, Navalny was found guilty of violating the terms of his suspended sentence relating to an embezzlement case that he has called politically motivated.
The court converted the sentence to 3 1/2 years in prison. Given credit for time already spent in detention, the court said the Kremlin critic would have to serve 2 years and 8 months behind bars.
The ruling sparked new mass protests across the country that were also violently dispersed by police.
Another 1,400 people were detained by police in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities on that day.
Navalny is currently being held in Correctional Colony No. 2, known as one of the toughest prisons in Russia.
The push also comes as Russians prepare to head to the polls in parliamentary elections in September where they hope to derail the ruling United Russia party's stranglehold on power.
Navalny and his supporters have developed a "smart voting" system, which is aimed at undercutting United Russia candidates.
Under the system, voters can enter their address into a special app, which will then give them a list of the candidates deemed most likely to defeat their United Russia rivals regardless of their party affiliation.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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