Saturday

25th Nov 2017

Tens of thousands challenge Putin's authority

  • Police in riot equipment arrested about 1,000 people, including Navalny, in Moscow (Photo: Person Behind the Scenes)

The EU has called on Russia to release "without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained" after a protest in Moscow.

Tens of thousands of people protested against corruption in Russia on Sunday (26 March) in the biggest challenge to Kremlin authority in five years.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The rallies were prompted by allegations that Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev had amassed an illicit fortune, but they also voiced anger against Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Between 20,000 and 60,000 people took part in more than 80 cities across the country, with the largest protest of some 10,000 reported in central Moscow. Smaller rallies were as far afield as Vladivostock in the Far East, and in Makhachkala in the North Caucasus.

The protests were the biggest since the winter of 2012, following flawed presidential elections, and come ahead of Putin’s next re-election bid in 2018.

Civil unrest

Police in riot equipment arrested around 1,000 people in Moscow alone, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called for the demonstrations earlier this month in a YouTube clip alleging that prime minister Dmitry Medvedev had amassed a $1 billion fortune.

The clip attracted more than 11 million views on the social media website.

A recent investigation by the OCCRP, a club of investigative reporters in eastern Europe, also showed that the Russian elite had transferred more than $20 billion in illicit funds out of the country.

Protesters on Sunday held banners, such as “Russia without Putin”, waved Russian flags in a show of patriotism, and carried rubber ducks in reference to Navalny’s claim that Medvedev’s palatial homes included a special building to house ducks.

“You can’t detain everyone who’s against corruption. There are millions of us,” Navalny tweeted from police custody.

Others detained included Nikolai Lyaskin, an opposition leader; Gregory Hill, a 17-year old British student; and Alec Luhn, an American journalist who writes for the British newspaper The Guardian.

The police were accused of doling out scattered beatings, but did not react with the same brutality shown by Belarus law enforcement agencies against protesters in Minsk on Saturday, where up to 600 people called for the abolition of a new tax.

Strong condemnations

The US state department in a comment on Sunday said it “strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters” in Russia.

"Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” its spokesman, Mark Toner, said.

Ben Sasse, a senator from the Republican Party of the Russia-friendly US president Donald Trump, added: “Putin’s thugocracy is on full display. The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters”.

The EU foreign service said Russian police had “prevented the exercise of basic freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly - which are fundamental rights enshrined in the Russian constitution”.

It also called for Russia “to release without delay the peaceful demonstrators that have been detained”. It went on to condemn the events in Minsk on Saturday, saying: “The response by the security services was indiscriminate and inappropriate”.

Illegitimate protests

The Russian authorities said Sunday’s protests were illegitimate and branded Navalny as a “crook”.

The Belarusian foreign ministry reacted by accusing the protesters of intending to use violence, adding: “In order to be consistent, European institutions and policymakers should express ‘concern’ over numerous arrests on the eve of the celebration of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March, and active usage of water cannons, tear gas and other non-lethal devices to disperse demonstrations in European capitals”.

Speaking to EUobserver from Moscow on Friday, Mikhail Kasyanov, another Russian opposition leader and former prime minister, called on the EU to keep a “principled position” on Russia by maintaining economic sanctions and by voicing support for Russian reformers.

He said his party’s activists were being intimidated by the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, with threats of job losses or violence if they kept up their work.

Kasyanov added that while the mood in the opposition was “gloomy” and “nervous”, many people in the Russian middle classes were increasingly coming to blame Putin for the country’s economic woes.

He said the West should not expect much from the 2018 election, which would be “an imitation” of democracy, just as in the last vote in 2011, but he said Russian society was already “divided 50-50” against Putin.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Tusk: Poland risks harming EU appeal

EU Council president said anti-democratic 'interventions' in Poland and the US could harm Western soft power in its contest with Russia.

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Germany remains 'active' in EU
  2. Work with Israel, Egypt on gas exploration, says Commission
  3. Only seven EU states have 'advanced' stage climate plans
  4. EU dashes integration hopes of eastern countries
  5. EU approves joint Irish electricity scheme
  6. German president to launch 'Grand Coalition' talks
  7. Irish opposition 'threatens national interest', says minister
  8. SPD drops opposition to grand coalition in Germany

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  6. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  8. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  9. EPSUStudy Finds TUNED and Employers in Central Governments Most Representative
  10. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  11. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  12. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  2. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  3. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  5. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  6. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  7. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  8. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  10. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  11. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  12. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education