On Saturday, January 23, unauthorized protests were held in Moscow and many other cities in Russia. According to the photos published by many media outlets, thousands of people of different ages took part in them.
While many media outlets say that these were rallies in support of Aleksei Navalny, a well-known Russian opposition activist, this might be only partially true because people expressed different demands. Yes, some participants in the unauthorized actions did share Alexei Navalny’s viewpoints. These people are worried about his arrest immediately after his arrival from Germany. However, according to live broadcasting from the field by many channels, as well as videos made by the protesters, it is possible to conclude that not all people spoke only in Navalny’s support. Many demonstrators were primarily interested in their salaries, pensions, skyrocketing food prices, and social injustice. It was clear that people wanted changes in the country. It was the desire for the better future that made people take to the streets.
It is noteworthy that in various social media, a lot of calls to join the unsanctioned rallies were posted in advance. In particular, in TikTok, which is mostly popular with children and teenagers. Meanwhile, participation in such rallies violates the Russian laws. Why was it necessary to call children to do it?
Many people who participated in the rallies said in interviews that they did it because something had to be done. According to them, there was no way to continue living like this and changes were needed. One elderly pensioner said that she had to work because it was simply impossible to live on her 9,000 ruble ($118.49) pension. It is likely that most people took to the streets to protest what is happening in Russia today. Many people do not agree with the way the country's wealth is distributed and with the fact that there is the gap between high-ranking officials and the oligarchs, on the one hand, and ordinary people, on the other. It is this social injustice that has forced thousands of people to fill the central squares in their cities and demand justice.
In Moscow, police and the National Guard of Russia initially acted calmly, asking residents to disperse. However, after provocative actions of the radically-minded supporters of Navalny, they started detaining people. Batons were used. People threw snowballs at them. Some of the participants resorted to trading blows with the policemen.
As seen on numerous videos, the riot policemen attacked in groups of several people. They wedged into the crowds, grabbed the radical protesters and took them to the vans. Participants in the unsanctioned action tried to release the detainees but it was not always possible. In some places, metal fences were put up.
As the media reported, in response to a question of a riot policeman: "Where are you all going?" a girl replied: "We want to prevent injustice in our country.” People chanted and shouted various things. However, "Change!", "Shame!" "Navalny," and "Russia without Putin!" were the most common ones.
The Interior Ministry says that only 4,000 people went out to protest in Moscow. In the meantime, according to a number of media outlets and Reuters, up to 40,000 people took to the streets. Meanwhile, according to Navalny's regional headquarters, at least 250,000 people participated in riots in 110 Russian cities.
The OVD-Info website says that over 300 people were detained in Moscow. Meanwhile, according to human rights observers, law enforcement authorities in the capital detained 1,167 participants in an unsanctioned rally, including Lyubov Sobol, the lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Foundation*, and Navalny's wife Yulia.
RIA Novosti reported that 39 law enforcement officers in Moscow suffered light injuries. Protesters were also injured. On the same day, the Russian Investigative Committee opened four criminal cases under the Articles on hooliganism, the use of violence against a representative of authority, and the intentional destruction or damage to property, according to Yulia Ivanova, a senior assistant to the head of the Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee. Under these articles, the detainees might get not only fines but also prison terms. Criminal charges were also filed in Vladivostok, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don and Novosibirsk.
Meanwhile, while assessing the events of January 23, political analyst Sergei Markov said that "powerful forces in Western countries were behind Navalny, seeking to overthrow Vladimir Putin.” According to political analyst Sergei Mikheyev, “Navalny is part of a well-developed plan.”
* The Anti-Corruption Foundation is a non-profit organization that was included by the Ministry of Justice in the list of non-profit-making organizations performing the functions of foreign agent.