The Russians defy the weather and police brutality to demand the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Thousands of Russians in 200 cities from Moscow to Siberia defied the freezing temperatures and the brutality of the police during protests against democracy on Saturday.
The demonstrations were in response to the attempted assassination and the subsequent arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which caused anger among Russian citizens.
Navalny was poisoned last August and taken to Germany for treatment, where doctors confirmed that the chemical agent Novichok had been used. Navalny then, along with Bellingcat, a news agency, helped investigate his own assassination attempt. As is known, he called an involved FSB agent and brought him to a confession.
The opposition leader returned to Russia on January 17, where he was immediately arrested. His team published another investigation two days later allegedly showing President Vladimir Putin’s palace on the Black Sea. The investigation was accompanied by calls by Navalny to protest on January 23, which were followed closely.
There have been over 3,000 arrests across the country, including 16 reporters, most in the past four years, according to protest tracking website OVD-Info. It is not known how many people across the country attended, but videos and pictures show tens of thousands of people on the street.
In Siberia, people protested in -60F weather.
In Irkutsk, a small town on the border with Mongolia, thousands filled the streets.
Protesters also lined the streets leading to the Kremlin in Moscow.
And thousands marched in St. Petersburg.
Protesters in Moscow threw snowballs at nearby police officers.
However, it was not long before the police used force during the protests, which were previously considered illegal.
A video shows a woman being kicked in the stomach. According to Mediazona News Agency, the woman had a concussion and was taken to the hospital.
In another video, police are seen molesting a young child while the crowd yells for their release.
A reporter who was arrested and subsequently released recorded that people were beaten in police buses.
Another video shows a woman being taken away by two plainclothes men.
The US embassy in Russia tweeted in support of the protests, and the Russian State Department later described the tweet as “hypocrisy”.
The eye-catching photos and videos mostly show demonstrators banding together against the police and sometimes addressing their consciences.
Undaunted by the police response and government condemnation, Navalny’s organization called for further protests next week.
“This was the first step on the way to victory,” tweeted the Anti-Corruption Foundation. “I’ll see you again in a week.”