Even as thousands gathered in Moscow to protest the Kremlin’s crackdown on free elections in Russia’s capital city, news programs on Russian state-sponsored television on Saturday chose not to lead broadcasts with the massive pro-Democracy demonstrations. Instead, they led with Russian President Vladimir Putin riding a motorized tricycle with a notorious Crimean biker gang, according to a EuroNews report.
The club, known as the Night Wolves, has formed a close relationship with the Kremlin and openly supported Russia’s 20-14 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Called “Putin’s Hell’s Angels,” the Night Wolves supported Russian troops in Crimea, according to The Telegraph, and are believed to receive funding from the Russian government, even though they “claim to reject all laws, written and unwritten, and all political or religious movements,” The Telegraph reported.
Putin saluted the bikers during his Saturday visit near the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Sky News quoted him.
“I am very happy that such manly and cool lads set an example for the young people in our country and show them how one should treat Russia.”
At the same time, about 50,000 protesters gathered in Moscow — and dozens were arrested by police — to protest the Kremlin’s ban on opposition party candidates from running in this year’s Moscow city council elections, according to the AFP news agency.
Putin is hanging out with the Night Wolves in Crimea today, so you can guess what's leading the evening news pic.twitter.com/alwpxnA74F— Scott Rose (@rprose) August 10, 2019
Russian police said that the crowd numbered only about 20,000. But protest organizers said that the pro-Democracy rally was the largest in Putin’s Russia since 2011, according to the BBC, which reported that the massive protest was the fifth to take place in the past month.
More than 47,000 people - double the number of a few weeks ago - protested in Moscow today. The Kremlin’s attempts to kill the pro-democracy movement are only making it stronger pic.twitter.com/TCEf4lrEJW— max seddon (@maxseddon) August 10, 2019
Thousands have been arrested during the previous protests, and anti-Putin opposition leader Alex Navalny was among them. But Navalny suddenly fell ill in prison just four days after his arrest, breaking out in unexplained “facial swelling and red rashes,” as The Inquisitr reported. Navalny’s personal doctor posted on Facebook that she suspected the opposition leader had been poisoned.
Saturday’s protest was authorized by the Russian government, but when numerous protesters left the approved site of the demonstration for an unauthorized “stroll,” many were arrested, according to the BBC report. Previous pro-democracy demonstrations were not authorized and resulted in many more arrests and numerous complaints of police brutality.
Putin’s jackbooted stormtroopers try to intimidate Russians who are sick and tired of Putin’s kleptocracy. It’s not working. 60,000 people showed up today and more will in the future. https://t.co/dcvyyt0d7w— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) August 10, 2019
After Saturday’s protests, the Russian government placed the blame on Google, and ordered the United States-based internet search engine giant to cease allowing promotion of what the Kremlin called “illegal mass events” on the Google-owned YouTube platform, according to a Reuters report, which noted that Google had not responded to Russia’s demand as of Sunday.