Belarusian citizen Uladzlen Los, a lawyer with jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), says he will continue his work with the Kremlin critic’s team even though Russian police forced him out of the country following weekend rallies by tens of thousands calling for Navalny’s release.
“I will continue to work distantly as much as I can. I will help those detained, filing appeals on their behalf. I will help them file complaints with the European Court of Human Rights. Unlike Belarusian citizens, Russians have a right to appeal with that court. I have enough work,” Los told RFE/RL in an interview on January 26.
Los, along with several other Navalny associates, was detained last week before the demonstrations and sentenced to three days in jail on a charge of disobeying a police order. Other associates were also sentenced to several days in jail or fined as the authorities looked to curb the scale of the expected demonstrations.
Then, on January 24, Los said he was handcuffed and forced into a car with a sack over his head in Moscow before being taken on a 10-hour drive to the border by plainclothes police and handed over to Belarusian authorities.
Los managed to leave Belarus quickly after arriving and is currently in an undisclosed location.
“It’s not possible to deport all of Aleksei Navalny’s associates from Russia, because they are Russian citizens. [Police] did that to me because I am a Belarusian citizen. They kicked me out of Russia intentionally to complicate our activities in terms of assisting those detained during the rallies [on January 23],” he added.
The January 23 protests in support of Navalny were the largest Russia has seen in years.
The 44-year-old Kremlin critic was arrested on January 17 as he returned from Germany, where he was recovering from a poisoning attack with a military-grade nerve agent.
Navalny has said the poisoning was an assassination attempt by the state to silence him. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incident.
Los told RFE/RL he is confident that protests in Russia will continue and gain momentum despite the crackdown by security officials. He compared the protests in Russia with ongoing rallies in Belarus, where almost daily demonstrations since August 2020 have demanded the resignation of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, and fresh elections saying the last vote was rigged.
“Russian authorities will always say that they control the situation. Alyaksandr Lukashenka also says everything is under his control. But do we believe him? I doubt that. This is the year of elections to the State Duma (Russian parliament’s lower chamber). It is not possible to just continue to tighten the screws and use violence all the time. [The government] will have to start a dialogue,” Los said.