Sunday 22 October 2017

Putin facing more protests as opposition leader jailed

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Photo: REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Photo: REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Roland Oliphant

Vladimir Putin's government will face further demonstrations of public discontent after a wave of anti-corruption protests swept Russia at the weekend, the opposition leader arrested for leading the rallies has said.

Alexei Navalny (40) was jailed for 15 days yesterday for disobeying a police officer at a protest against government corruption in central Moscow at the weekend.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of 20,000 rubles (€323) for organising an unsanctioned demonstration.

"You can't detain tens of thousands of people," he told reporters in the court room. "Yesterday we saw the authorities can only go so far."

More than 1,000 people were arrested in cities across Russia on Sunday following dozens of demonstrations demanding that prime minister Dmitry Medvedev resigns over corruption allegations released in a dossier compiled by Mr Navalny. Mr Medvedev's spokesman called the allegations "propagandistic attacks" unworthy of detailed comment and said they amounted to pre-election posturing by Mr Navalny.

Police also arrested 17 people at the office of Mr Navalny's anti-corruption campaign group, which was running a webcast of the Moscow demonstration.

After arriving in court yesterday morning, Mr Navalny tweeted a selfie with the caption: "A time will come when we'll put them on trial too - and that time it will be fair."

Mr Navalny struck a defiant note at the hearing, demanding Mr Medvedev be called as a witness to explain the alleged corruption people were protesting about and saying he and his allies would not be deterred.

Sunday's demonstrations were the largest expression of discontent with Mr Putin's government since the winter of 2011 and 2012, when massive protests took place in Moscow following elections marred by accusations of fraud. But this weekend's protests took place in cities across the nation.

Mr Navalny plans to run for president against Mr Putin at elections next year. However, the lawyer-turned-opposition leader is serving a suspended sentence for fraud and embezzlement, which could bar him from the ballot.

Irish Independent

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