On Sunday, January 31, the Russians took to the streets in a new protest in support of the off-parliament opposition leader Alexei Navalny who had been put in jail. Many said that compared to other recent rallies, there were fewer people on the streets this time.
On the other hand, a greater number of law enforcement officers whose actions against the protesters got tougher were involved in the rally.
In addition, police officers in Moscow detained Yulia, Navalny's wife. Judging from the footage of the moment of her detention, it was, to put it mildly, "not very" tactful. The man who said that he was Yulia’s defense lawyer was standing next to the police car in which they had allegedly put her. He asked to be allowed to accompany her but in response, the car doors slammed shut behind him.
Ilya Grashchenkov, the head of the Centre for Political Expert Studies, shared his opinion on the rally’s characteristics on the air of the Dozhd (TV Rain) independent TV channel. He also agreed with the view that there had been fewer people on the streets during the recent protests. However, according to him, this fact would not make the Russian authorities calmer because there might be even more dangerous events for them that could trigger the protest sentiments including the day of the first hearing in the case of Alexei Navalny was scheduled.
"To my thinking, the security services and police did suspect that the current rallies would be less large-scale than the previous ones,” said Grashchenkov. “Especially since fever pitch was not the same. There has been no new investigation. Nevertheless, there will even more dangerous dates such as February 3 when Alexei Navalny was tried. It seems to me that there might more worries. Therefore, January 31 was considered as an intermediate date. We can confirm that there were slightly fewer people, especially in the regions. However, police actions became harsher. So, in fact, this number of law enforcers, their tough actions and other things shows that the policy of intimidation is successful.
“We have already said earlier that the Belarusian scenario is fundamental for the incumbent authorities. They believe that they can really intimidate the protesters and stop rallies by force. However, these actions have only a short-term effect. Those who were afraid and came to the actions for the first time, received a severe blow with a club or saw their neighbors receive one, are not likely to take to the streets today. Chances are they will join for the second and third protest action. However, most importantly, this feeling of inequality and of all the bad things that are happening in society will increase because any repressive measures taken ultimately flips around the perception of the situation. That is, the tougher we get on people, the bigger the opposite effect we see."