Alexey Navalny Arrested On Campaign Trail

October 3, 2017

Anti-corruption campaigner and self-made presidential candidate Alexey Navalny has once again been arrested for violating the rules of organising public demonstrations.  While Vladimir Putin maintains record high approval ratings in opinion polls, the question on everybody’s mind is: why are the authorities trying so hard to stop Navalny in his tracks?

Moscow’s Simonovsky court has sentenced the politician and potential presidential candidate Alexey Navalny to 20 days in prison.  Judge Khyzyr Mussakaev found Navalny guilty of violating the rules of organising public demonstrations.

The court came to the decision that the demonstration organised by Navalny’s supporters was unapproved by the Nizhniy Novgorod authorities.  There appears to have been a miscommunication with the city authorities ahead of a planned campaign meeting on one of the city’s central squares.

Leonid Volkov, head of Navalny’s Moscow bureau, has also been sentenced to 20 days detention for identical charges, according to Mediazone.

Since the Bolotnaya protests in 2012 strict rules have been brought in by the Kremlin to place limits on public demonstrations.  The organisers of any public demonstrations can be held personally accountable for even minor violations of the rules by participants and face fines and even jail time.  Such laws are intended to dissuade people from gathering in public and expressing their political opinions in the public eye.

The authorities often use the rigidity of the law on demonstrations to force politically undesirable movements in to the shadows of city backstreets.  On one particularly symbolic occasion in Rostov-on-Don, local authorities forced demonstrators to congregate in a graveyard.

As if that were not enough, there have been many instances of sabotage of electrical equipment and destruction of campaign materials.

This time Navalny was suspected of “calling on people to conduct an unsanctioned demonstration” through his blog and his Youtube channel.  Navalny rejected the accusations in court, but nevertheless was found guilty.

Navalny was arrested the day before outside his house as he prepared to meet with supporters in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod.  At the police station he was charged with “repeated violations of the rules of organising mass events”.  He was subsequently ordered to appear at court on October 2.

Navalny was arrested previously for conducting an “unsanctioned demonstration” after he redirected his anti-corruption gathering on June 12 to Moscow’s central Tverskaya street.  He was subsequently sentenced to 30 days in prison for violating the rules of organising public events.

Opinion polls across the board show high approval ratings for Vladimir Putin, which surged to record levels after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and have since begun to slip ever so slightly.  Although Putin is yet to officially announce his candidacy for the presidency, the vast consensus among experts is that he will be running the country for at least a further 6 years.

Alexey Navalny’s campaign is heavily targeted at the corruption of the country’s current ruling elite, a fact which has roused anger among some of the most prominent political figures in Russia.  Nevertheless, most agree that his chances of securing a significant portion of the vote are slim, not to mention whether he will be allowed to run as an official candidate.

The Kremlin understands Navalny’s appeal among young people and has witnessed his ability to mobilise large crowds in protest.  The ruling party has almost total control of the media sphere, but it fears public expressions of discontent, particularly those who question the legitimacy of a fourth Putin presidency.

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