Tens of Thousands Protest across Russia, Demand Navalny’s Release

The regime of Vladimir Putin ordered the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in a rushed jailhouse hearing after his return to Russia, then “found” it had the right to hold him for at least 30 days. The political crackdown against an anti-corruption campaigner Putin’s security forces attempted to assassinate has sparked outrage across Russia and around the world.

In a defiant show of resistance and independence, more than 100,00 have joined protests in more than 70 cities across Russia, demanding Navalny’s immediate release. Candidates supported by Navalny’s movement have been among the only non-loyalist candidates to win elected office in Russia in recent years. Putin is reportedly so afraid of the influence Navalny has built with the Russian people that he refuses to mention his name.

Navalny has reached people across Russia with his anti-corruption campaign. Anger at his detention is so deep there was even a sizable protest in Yakutsk, where temperatures were -50°C (yes, 50 degrees below zero).

The Washington Post is reporting today that:

Saturday’s demonstrations came after a sweeping national crackdown in which police detained opposition activists and courts locked up Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, and another team member, Georgy Alburov, co-author of a bombshell viral YouTube video “Putin’s Palace — History of the World’s Largest Bribe.”


The video, posted Tuesday, alleging colossal corruption in the construction of a vast Black Sea palace for Putin, has been viewed more than 68 million times. The Kremlin denies any relationship between Putin and the palace.

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Courage in the face of tyranny puts Putin regime on the defensive

The return of Alexei Navalny to Russia, after operatives apparently working for Vladimir Putin poisoned him with a military-grade neurotoxin, is an act of courage beyond anything Russia’s president has ever shown. Navalny is the leader of Russia’s leading anti-corruption effort, so Putin’s cruel opposition to his work speaks volumes about the corrupt and unaccountable nature of his regime.

If Putin had anything like the courage, principle, or patriotism Navalny has shown, he would immediately release him, and all who support him, and he would call for open elections to be monitored by independent foreign election observers, under an absolute prohibition on using any powers of the state to assist his own campaign.

The half-baked charges Putin’s regime uses to keep its critics from mounting strong national campaigns is evidence of the regime’s unfitness to govern, and of its structural frailty. That the regime also murders those it cannot sideline or silence is proof it operates outside any justifiable legal mandate and works actively against—not for—the interests of the Russian people.

Navalny arrested upon return to Russia

Russian anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny—a popular political opponent of Vladimir Putin’s regime—returned to Russia today, months after he was poisoned in an attempted assassination. Navalny narrowly escaped assassination after Russian operatives lined his underwear with the lethal nerve agent Novichok.

When he fell ill, his plane landed, he was evacuated to hospital, and then sent on to Germany for treatment. Investigators in Germany determined he was poisoned with Novichok, a banned Russian nerve agent.

Today, Navalny returned to his Russia. His plane was diverted when its intended destination airport was abruptly closed to incoming air traffic. Upon arrival, he was reportedly taken into custody.

Axios reports:

Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release, as well as the release of any who went to greet him upon his return. Amnesty’s Moscow director is saying:

Navalny’s arrest is further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him. His detention only highlights the need to investigate his allegations that he was poisoned by state agents acting on orders from the highest levels.

International outcry over the attempted assassination of Mr. Navalny and the regime’s persecution of his Anti-Corruption campaign has been widespread. World leaders have denounced the poisoning and demanded a full and transparent investigation from Russian authorities, which has not materialized.

Recording reveals complicity of Russian state in poisoning of Navalny

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny appears to have identified at least one of his attackers.

The AP is reporting:

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Monday released a recording of a phone call he said he made to an alleged state security operative, who revealed some details of how the politician was supposedly poisoned and media identified as a member of a team that has reportedly trailed Navalny for years.

Read the full story here.

Putin Squanders Olympic Glow to Seize Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown away the halo of global good feeling that might have come with the success of the Sochi Olympic Games. Russia’s hosting of the Games was marred when armed paramilitary extremists linked to Putin publicly whipped members of the punk rock protest band Pussy Riot, but Putin’s government handled that situation by scolding the responsible Cossacks and denouncing such abuse of citizens.

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Why Kiev Matters

The struggle over Ukraine’s political system is important to the world for a lot of reasons. In short:

  1. It matters whether any human population has fair and transparent, democratically accountable government;
  2. Ukraine is a strategic crossroads, both for political and economic reasons;
  3. The tension over violence against protesters in Kiev could explode into a regional war that no one can afford;
  4. A peaceful resolution is an indicator of whether Russia and Europe can work together;
  5. Ukraine’s strategic value is partly to do with geopolitical spheres of influence, partly about carbon-based energy.

So, what is happening at this hour in Kiev matters to the wider world for moral reasons, for strategic political and economic reasons and because the outcome may determine whether petrostate hegemony will hold sway over the future of more than half a billion people. That authoritarian petrostate model—an outgrowth of both the Soviet dictatorship and the post-Soviet plutocracy in Russia—severely limits the power of individuals and communities to influence government, and to build a more humane, more collaborative, more sustainable future, from the ground up.

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