Arrests follow protest on Putin birthday
Police detained more than 100 supporters of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, yesterday as thousands rallied nationwide on President Vladimir Putin’s 65th birthday, calling for the leader to retire.
Putin, who has now reached the official retirement age of lower-ranking state employees, is widely expected to run again in next year’s presidential election and enjoys a high approval rating. Navalny has declared his intention to run in the election next March and had been campaigning in provincial cities as part of his long-shot bid for the presidency.
He was arrested late last month and a court last week sentenced him to 20 days in jail on charges of repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings. Navalny’s arrest galvanised supporters in 80 cities, who turned out yesterday in a nationwide protest against the ruling.
“I came out to support the opposition because I don’t agree with the course our country has taken,” said one of the St Petersburg protestors. “The ignorance and insanity have reached impossible levels.”
Protesters chanted “free Navalny”, “Putin’s a thief” and “fourth term in prison”, referring to the president’s expected run for re-election.
Local authorities refused permission for many of the demonstrations and told residents not to attend. Putin’s spokesman warned that violators could be prosecuted — but activists declared they would go ahead anyway.