Last weekend, Moscow police arrested around 1,400 protestors, the largest gathering in a decade, after people met to contest the dubious circumstances surrounding city-wide elections. Nearly 150 people remain in custody, according to OVD-Info. Alexi Navalny, a prominent critic of the Kremlin, was arrested Wednesday for inciting anti-government protests. The opposition candidate was hospitalized Sunday after being exposed to an undefined chemical substance and released later in the week.
Local election officials alleged that nominating petitions for opposition candidates had insufficient signatures for the September 8th Duma election, which sparked the most recent and violent demonstrations. Police arrested many of the opposition candidates, and most remain behind bars.
The specific numbers surrounding the event remain unclear, but as Statista's Sarah Feldman details, official police reports cite 1,074 arrests, while independent monitoring organizations reported 1,373 detentions. The peaceful protestors were broken up violently in what Amnesty International referred to as “indiscriminate use of force by police.” Police report 3,500 people gathered on Saturday, though independent reports and aerial footage put that figure anywhere between 8,000 to 20,000 protestors.
Last month, Russian police arrested about 500 people at a protest over the jailing of an investigative Moscow journalist. The journalist, Ivan Golunov, was arrested for allegedly dealing drugs, a charge he denies. In an unusual turn of events, the police released him and promised to punish those who allegedly framed him. Not only did hundreds take to the streets to protest the arrest, but the three main newspapers printed front-page headlines criticizing the arrest, an uncommon show of solidarity.
These widespread protests are unusual for the country but may grow more common.
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According to Levada, an independent public opinion research organization, Russians are nearly twice more likely to protest now than they were two years ago. In February 2017, only about 12 percent of Russian respondents said they would probably participate in a public mass protest. By May 2019, about a quarter of respondents said they would likely participate in a public mass protest.