Week-ending 19 February 2021
On St. Valentine’s Day, 14 February, hundreds of women attended protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg in support of Russian women prosecuted for political reasons and in solidarity with Yuliya Navalnaya, forming ‘Chains Of Solidary And Love’. The slogan of the protest, which many of the demonstrators sang, was ‘Love is stronger than fear.’ RFE/RL reported that the organizers said on their Facebook page that the rallies were dedicated to the women who were “beaten and tortured by police during peaceful protests,” as well as “to everyone who spends their days in courts, police buses, and special detention centers.”
The Guardian, 14 February 2021: Several hundred women formed human chains in Moscow and St Petersburg on Sunday, using Valentine’s Day to express support for the wife of the jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, and other political prisoners. About 300 women gathered on Arbat Street in Moscow’s city centre holding a long white ribbon in temperatures of -13C (8F). The gathering came after authorities last week sentenced Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, to nearly three years in prison and unleashed a crackdown on his supporters.
RFE/RL, 14 February 2021: Following mass rallies that saw thousands of detentions, supporters of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny have been using light from cell phones, flashlights, and candles as a new form of protest. The February 14 protest action, called by Navalny’s team under the motto “Love is stronger than fear,” began in Russia’s Far East, including in the cities of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Vladivostok, and Khabarovsk. Photos shared on social media showed small groups of people standing outdoors and holding flashlights or standing by candles arranged in the shape of a heart to mark the Valentine’s Day protest. In the Russian capital, more than 20 people could be seen at Moscow State University forming a heart while holding flashlights.
RFE/RL, 14 February 2021: Hundreds of women have attended protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on St. Valentine’s Day in support of Russian women prosecuted for political reasons. The Chain Of Solidary And Love protest is also dedicated to imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who flew to Germany on February 10. Although no explanation was given for her departure, Navalnaya had recently been detained for taking part in unsanctioned rallies in support of her husband. Images shared on social media on February 14 show women holding red roses, balloons, and heart signs with the names of female political prisoners written on them. Demonstrators also sang “Love is stronger than fear,” the motto of the protests. The organizers said on their Facebook page that the rallies were dedicated to the women who were “beaten and tortured by police during peaceful protests,” as well as “to everyone who spends their days in courts, police buses, and special detention centers.”
The Guardian, 14 February 2021: Supporters of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny plan to hold candlelit gatherings in residential courtyards across Russia on Sunday despite warnings that they could be arrested. Navalny’s allies have declared a moratorium on street rallies until the spring after police detained thousands of people at protests in the past few weeks against the opposition politician’s arrest and imprisonment. But they want Russians to show solidarity with Navalny by gathering outside their homes for 15 minutes on Valentine’s Day evening, shining their mobile phone torches and arranging candles in the shape of a heart. “(President Vladimir) Putin is fear. Navalny is love. That’s why we will win,” Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s close allies, wrote on Twitter when calling on people to gather.
Related news this week:
RFE/RL, 13 February 2021: Law enforcement officers have searched the Chelyabinsk offices of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, activists reported on February 13. The activists said on Twitter that the search took place while nobody was present at the offices in the Urals city. “We came to the headquarters and found this,” the activists tweeted together with several pictures of the ransacked office. “The premises were raided while we were working remotely,” they said.
Front Line Defenders, 17 February 2021: On 15 February human right defender and member of the United Group of Civic Observers Vyacheslav Slusarev was charged with participating in an unauthorised protest and was fined 10,000 roubles (approximately 100 euro). The human rights defender had been monitoring the protest in support of Alexei Navalny in Syktyvkar. Vyacheslav Slusarev is an LGBTIQ+ rights defender, board member of the regional branch of the Russian Historical, Educational and Human Rights Society Memorial and a member of the United Group of Civic Observers (OGON). The OGON is a public association operating on the basis of norms of international human rights law and conducts human rights monitoring of public events, trials and the work of the law enforcement. Vyacheslav Slusarev is well known for developing an observation mechanism for semi-closed social facilities such as psycho-neurological boarding schools, facilities for persons with disabilities and elderly people, which has been used in other regions of Russia.
RFE/RL, 16 February 2021: Aleksei Navalny returned to a Moscow courtroom where the opposition activist and Kremlin critic is on trial for charges of slandering a World War II veteran. The February 16 proceedings were the latest development in an effort that Navalny and his allies say is a politically motivated campaign aimed solely at keeping him behind bars. Earlier this month, Navalny was ordered to prison for nearly 3 years after a judge ruled he had violated parole while he was recuperating in Germany from a near-fatal nerve-agent poisoning.
The Guardian, 16 February 2021: Russian state prosecutors has asked a court to fine the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny 950,000 roubles (£9,300) for slandering a second world war veteran, a charge he calls politically motivated. President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic was jailed this month for almost three years for parole violations he said were trumped up. The west has condemned the case and is discussing possible sanctions on Russia. The judge said the verdict would be announced on Saturday – the same day that Navalny is due to appeal against his imprisonment.