Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has called on his supporters to come out in droves for a second weekend of nationwide demonstrations as authorities crack down on the Kremlin critic’s associates and warn protesters against taking to the streets.
In a letter posted on his website on January 28 after a court rejected an appeal against his arrest, Navalny called on Russians to cast aside fear and stage fresh protests.
“Come on out, don’t be afraid of anything. Nobody wants to live in a country where tyranny and corruption reign. The majority is on our side,” Navalny said.
Navalny and his associates are planning nationwide protests on January 31, following demonstrations in dozens of cities last weekend that brought out hundreds of thousands of people despite a brutal police crackdown. Police detained almost 4,000 people in the demonstrations.
Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent in August he accuses President Vladimir Putin of ordering, a claim the Kremlin denies.
A Russian court on January 28 confirmed his 30-day pretrial sentence, rejecting an appeal by the dissident’s lawyers to set him free.
A trial on February 2 will determine whether an earlier suspended sentence will be converted into 3 1/2 years in prison in relation to an embezzlement case that is widely considered trumped up and politically motivated.
Prosecutors are alleging he violated the terms of his probation while receiving treatment in Germany.
Navalny, who took part in the hearing via a video link, called his arrest a sign of the “lawlessness” that has become commonplace in Russia “with the goal to frighten me and everyone else.”
Ahead of this weekend’s planned protests, several of Navalny’s allies and supporters were detained in raids while police warned they will crack down on any unsanctioned public events.
Meanwhile, a two-hour film made by Navalny alleging President Vladimir Putin owns an opulent $1.36 billion palace on the Black Sea has been viewed more than 100 million times, further stirring public anger.
Navalny’s team released the bombshell video last week in which he leveled his allegations about the palace.
Putin has said the property does not belong to him.