Police in Russia crack down on Navalny protests as human rights group claims ‘at least 100 arrested’

World

Police in Russia have cracked down on people gathered to mark the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny – with one human rights group claiming that at least 100 people have been arrested.

Footage and pictures from Russia’s two largest cities – Moscow and St Petersburg – showed officers ripping away placards from protesters and dragging others away from makeshift memorials to Mr Navalny.

Journalists at the site in Moscow – set up at a monument to victims of Soviet repression – were also filmed being detained.

One woman at the site told Sky News: “All that is happening over these years, on the territory of my beloved country, is a disgrace.”

Another added: “I am furious, of course. They have finally killed him.”

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‘I’m ashamed of my country’

According to the Russian human rights group, OVD-info, at least 100 people have been arrested across eight cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg and Krasnodar, during gatherings to mark Mr Navalny’s death.

Though police have not given any details on arrests, prosecutors have warned Russians against participating in any mass protest in Moscow.

It comes after jailed dissident Mr Navalny, a chief critic of President Vladimir Putin who had campaigned against official corruption and led major anti-Kremlin protests, was confirmed dead by prison authorities in Russia on Friday, at the age of 47.

Police officers detain a woman who laid flowers for Alexei Navalny at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Russian authorities say that Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison. He was 47. (AP Photo)
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A woman who laid flowers for Alexei Navalny is detained in St Petersburg. Pic: AP

Police officers detain a woman who lays flowers paying the last respect to Alexei Navalny at the Memorial to Victims of Political Repression in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Russian authorities say that Alexei Navalny, the fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison. He was 47. (AP Photo)
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Police officers detain a woman at the site in St Petersburg. Pic: AP

Protester detained seconds after attempting protest at Navalny-related ceremony in Moscow
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Police take a sign off a protester in Moscow. Pic: AP


Protests across Europe

Protests were also held outside of Russia, including in London, where people carrying pictures of Mr Navalny’s face demonstrated outside the Russian embassy near Notting Hill.

One man at the protest, who did not wish to be named, said: “I want Russia to be a country that is respected all over the world.

“I want to love my flag. But today it’s not possible because the flag represents the war.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appears via a video link from the Arctic penal colony where he is serving a 19-year sentence, provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service during a hearing of Russia's Supreme Court, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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Alexei Navalny appears via a video link from the Arctic penal colony where he was being held prior to his death. Pic: AP

Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands behind a glass panel of a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in 2021.
Pic: AP
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Alexei Navalny, pictured in court in 2021.
Pic: AP

In Berlin, hundreds gathered near the Russian embassy chanting in a mixture of Russian, German and English, including “Putin to the Hague”.

In Lithuania, formerly run from Moscow but now a member of NATO and the European Union, mourners placed flowers and candles by a portrait of Mr Navalny.

“He was always with us, so it is all surreal,” said Lyusya Shtein, 26, a Pussy Riot activist who has lived in Vilnius since leaving Russia in 2022.

Groups also gathered in cities including Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sofia, Geneva, and The Hague, among others.

Protesters have gathered outside the Russian embassy in London after the death of Alexei Navalny.
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Protesters have gathered outside the Russian embassy in London after the death of Alexei Navalny.

A woman holds a portrait of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny during a protest in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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Protests have also taken place in Berlin, Germany. Pic: AP

A person places a candle at a makeshift memorial for Alexei Navalny outside the Russian consulate in Montreal, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Alexei Navalny, who crusaded against official corruption and staged massive anti-Kremlin protests as President Vladimir Putin...s fiercest foe, has died in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)
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A person places a candle at a makeshift memorial for Alexei Navalny in Montreal, Canada. Pic: AP

World leaders react

World leaders, meanwhile, reacted to the news of Mr Navalny’s death, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy firmly pointing the blame on Mr Putin.

“It is obvious that he was killed by Putin,” he said during a visit to the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“Putin doesn’t care who dies – only for him to hold his position. This is why he must hold onto nothing. Putin must lose everything and be held responsible for his deeds,” he added.

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Journalists arrested after Navalny death

US President Joe Biden said Washington does not know exactly what happened, “but there is no doubt that the death of Navalny was a consequence of something Putin and his thugs did”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country temporarily took in Mr Navalny in 2020 after he was poisoned with a nerve agent, praised the Kremlin critic’s bravery and said his death makes clear “what kind of regime this is [In Russia]”.

Read more:
The one man Putin refused to mention by name
Putin’s opponents – and their unfortunate fates

Speaking at the security conference in Munich, his wife Yulia Navalnaya, said: “For many years we cannot trust Putin and the Putin government. They always lie.

“But if this is true, I want Putin and everyone around him to know that they will be held accountable for everything they did to our country, to my family. And this day will come very soon.

“I want to call on the international community and all people to unite and defeat this evil.”

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‘Navalny’s courage will not be forgotten’

UK summons Russian ambassador

The UK’s foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, said Mr Putin must be held accountable and said there should be “consequences” for the Russian president.

Foreign Office officials have summoned the Russian ambassador to “make clear that we hold the Russian authorities fully responsible”.

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Mr Navalny was serving a 19-year prison sentence on extremism charges in a remote penal colony above the Arctic Circle at the time of his death.

He had been behind bars since he returned from Germany in January 2021, serving time on various charges that he rejected as a politically motivated effort to keep him imprisoned for life.

Russian prison authorities said Mr Navalny had felt unwell following a walk on Friday and lost consciousness.

Efforts by medical staff to revive him failed, according to the service.

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