Political Activists Targeted in Widespread Crackdown Ahead of Demonstrations

September 7, 2018

On 9th September Russians are to go to the ballot box to elect their next set of parliamentarians and other regional municipal deputies.  However, citizens in the city of Chelyabinsk, a large city in the Ural mountains, are instead planning a protest, demonstrating their outrage at the pension age reforms that have seen Putin’s presidential ratings drop throughout the summer.

The demonstration has been organised by Alexey Navalny, a prominent critic of the Putin regime. This has given the demonstration an extremely high profile for law-enforcement officials. In response, Navalny activists and their offices in six different cities across Russia have been targeted by the authorities in a nationwide crackdown.

The first arrest took place on September 4 in the Siberian city Yakutsk, where activist Anatoly Nogovistyn was arrested. On the following day Navalny’s campaign office in Novosibirsk was raided. This was followed by a respite as authorities prepared to carry out an extensive sweep of arrests.

Over the last 48 hours five arrests have been made: Activist Vera Kholodnya in Krasnodar, Navalny campaign co-ordinator Dimitry Silivonchik in Nizhny Novgorod and activist Maria Makovosova in Krasnoyarsk were all arrested yesterday. This morning in Chelyabinsk Navalny activists Tapas Loboichenko and Igor Valeev amongst others were arrested, with Loboichenko’s house being raided.

The legal justification coming from state organs for these arrests is questionable. Both Loboichenko and Valeev have been detained on the premise that they had publicly called for disorder and civil unrest. The evidence for this, the authorities state, can be found on two posts on Russian social networking site “Vkontakte”: The men had been discussing where the best place would be to carry out demonstration set to disrupt voting procedures on 9th of September.

The demonstration is set to take place at 14:00, and from social media estimations around 1000 people are planning on attending the demonstration, even though local authorities have refused to sanction the event. Unsanctioned demonstrations carry with them for participants the risk of imprisonment and, judging by former examples, heavy use of force from the side of the police.

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