Thousands of Russians took to the streets on Saturday to protest the fourth inauguration of Vladimir Putin as their president. More than 1,000 protestors have been detained, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny who organized the protests was dragged out of the Moscow rally in Pushkin Square by his ankles and arms kicking and screaming within minutes of his arrival. Detention of protest participants took place in 19 cities, 475 of them in Moscow.
Navalny put out a call for the protests through videos that went viral. He describes the protests as a form of opposition to what he calls Putin’s “autocratic tsar-like rule.” A total of 90 protests were organized across Russia, including St. Petersburg where more than 1,000 people marched down the famous avenue Nevsky Prospekt. Protestors chanted “He is not our tsar” in reference to Putin, Russia’s longest-serving leader since Stalin. Permits for the demonstrations were denied in many cities including Moscow where the sound of the crowds and sirens drowned out a music festival with small attendance.
Photos of the protests have spread across news websites and social media. Images show people opposing Putin from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga River, Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, and Khabarovsk in the Far East, according to a report from the Washington Post. Crowds chant that Putin is a thief and call for a Russia without him.
Navalny will be charged with organizing an unauthorized meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. It’s not known when he’ll face a judge, likely facing yet more time in jail for these kinds of charges. He had hoped to run against Putin in the latest Russian election but was unable to because of felony charges that his supporters feel were falsified to block his ability to run for election. Those charges will likely keep him from being able to run against Putin in the future. Although attendance at Saturday’s protests was smaller than the ones Navalny organized before Putin’s last inauguration in 2012, the widespread nature of Saturday’s many protests that challenge the belief of Putin supporters that Navalny’s appeal is small and limited to the urban elite. Putin won 77 percent of the vote in the last election.