If you need a reminder of what Donald Trump’s idol, Russian President Vladimir Putin, thinks of the people’s right to democratic reform, look no further than Saturday’s opposition protests in Moscow and the police’s horribly violent response.
By Sunday, the number of people arrested at the Moscow rally was nearly 1,400, according to the Associated Press, citing the monitoring group OVD-Info. That is the highest number of mass detentions in Russia a decade, the news agency said.
Most of the protesters were released, but about 150 remained in custody on Sunday, according to the report.
Per the AP:
Crackdowns on the anti-government protesters began days before the rally. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested and sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for calling for Saturday’s protest against election authorities who barred some opposition candidates from running in the Sept. 8 vote for Moscow city council.
Videos circulated on Saturday of the violence employed by baton-wielding police forces, which caused multiple broken bones and head injuries, according to the AP. Putin was out of town in St. Petersburg, leading a naval parade at the time.
About 8,000 demonstrators participated in Saturday’s rally, according to estimates, less than half the number that attended a similar protest last weekend. As the BBC described the scene, “Police in riot gear pushed back the crowd from barriers surrounding the mayor’s office in central Moscow, hauling off detainees to police stations.”
“The question is whether the anger over not being able to nominate a candidate - even for lower-level, city elections - would galvanise Muscovites into bigger, sustained expressions of dissent. After all, there are lots of residents not happy with the way Moscow government and Mayor Sobyanin run the city, or respond to popular concerns,” the BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev wrote.
Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, shared a video and photos of the violence that are circulating on social media. “These police actions seem rather anti-Russian to me,” he wrote.
Several news outlets also reported that Navalny was hospitalized a day after his arrest with a “severe allergic reaction.” His press secretary tweeted on Sunday that Navalny had “severe swelling of the face and redness of the skin. The source of the allergic reaction is undetermined. For all his life, Alexey had never experienced an allergic reaction.”
The New York Times noted that Navalny was attacked in 2017 by an assailant who threw some type of chemical on his face, causing 80% loss of the sight in one of his eyes.
“As the doctor who treated Aleksei’s severe eye burn two years ago, I can say with confidence that both today and in 2017 what happened was a result of the damage inflicted by an undetermined chemical substance,” Navalny’s doctor wrote on social media, according to the Times.