The authorities in Russia reportedly continued to detain supporters of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and closed the center of the country’s second-largest city even though no anti-government rallies were planned.
Snow removal equipment was used to block access to central St. Petersburg on February 6, where large rallies against Navalny’s jailing were held the last two weekends. Subway stations in the city center were also closed and police reportedly said that 30 raids were conducted against opposition supporters.
The blockades in St. Petersburg were gradually removed in the late afternoon.
Police action was also reported elsewhere, including in Vladivostok, where more than 100 demonstrators were arrested during anti-government and pro-Navalny rallies on January 31.
The homes of a number of activists, opposition politicians, and journalists were raided on February 6 in relation to an investigation into the blockage of roads ahead of a previous rally in the city, on January 23.
Video published by police in the Far East city reportedly showed the arrest of blogger Gennady Shulga at his home, with his head being pushed to the floor in front of an animal’s food dish. Local media reported that a small rally held in Vladivostok on February 6 was dwarfed by police.
Demonstrations have been held in more than 100 cities nationwide after Navalny, a well-known anti-corruption crusader and Kremlin critic, was arrested upon his return to Russia on January 17 following months of treatment abroad for a poisoning he says was ordered by President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny was in court twice this week. On February 2, he was sentenced to nearly three years in jail after a court converted a suspended sentence relating to fraud into jail time.
The second case, in which he is accused of defaming a World War II veteran in comments he made on Twitter, has been postponed. Navalny has accused Russian officials of “fabricating” the slander case relating to the comments he made about several people who appeared in a pro-Kremlin video.
After more than 10,000 protesters were detained during nationwide anti-government demonstrations on January 23 and 31, a close aide to Navalny held off on announcing any new protests.
“We will properly organize them and definitely hold another big one in spring and summer,” Leonid Volkov announced on a YouTube live stream.
Russia will hold key parliamentary elections on September 17. Navalny and his team are encouraging citizens to vote for politicians running against candidates from the pro-Putin United Russia party.