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26 Jan, 2021 10:16

Nine-year-old boy detained at Navalny protest, officials say, as Russian parliament holds probe into presence of kids at rallies

Nine-year-old boy detained at Navalny protest, officials say, as Russian parliament holds probe into presence of kids at rallies

Russia’s children’s rights watchdog has issued a warning after a nine-year-old was detained at Saturday’s protests in support of the activist Alexey Navalny, which attracted a large number of youngsters after going viral online.

Anna Kuznetsova, the Presidential Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, told Rossiya-1 news on Tuesday that, of those held by police, “the youngest so far, and of course the data is still being checked, is nine years old.”

The official added that “in Moscow, children of between nine and twelve were in the precinct, after being detained at the rally. The adults tried to keep them out of the thick of events… they ended up in the precinct waiting for their mothers.”

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Kuznetsova had previously revealed that more than 300 minors had been detained at protests on Saturday, 70 of them in Moscow alone. Marina Litvinovich, a member of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission, said that most teenagers who'd been picked up by police were released on the same day. “As I was able to establish, all of them did not participate in the rally in support of Navalny, but ended up at the place where it was being held by accident,” she told the TASS news wire.

Litvinovich added that some younger children might still be in custody. In addition, she said that there was no evidence of beatings or physical mistreatment from police, but that some teenagers had not been allowed to call their parents for a long time after being detained.

On Monday, the Speaker of Russia’s parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, told reporters that the assembly “condemns the involvement of children in politics… they should not be drawn into political processes, especially to bring them to unauthorized rallies, it is dangerous.” He said that lawmakers would discuss how to tackle the problem in an upcoming draft bill on criminal charges for involving minors in illegal rallies.

Clips calling for people to attend the protests and suggesting ways for them to deal with an arrest went viral on the TikTok video-sharing service in the lead up to Saturday’s demonstrations. Mass gatherings are prohibited in many parts of Russia in line with rules aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus. Roskomnadzor, the state media regulator, said that the Chinese-owned platform had deleted 38 percent of the posts it had deemed to be in support of illegal activity, while YouTube had erased more than half.

In one video, a young activist gives tips to viewers on how to imitate an American accent in case of arrest at the demonstrations. She offers up stock-phrases like “I left my passport in the hotel,”“I’m gonna call my lawyer” and “you’re violating my human rights.” It is unclear whether any protesters actually attempted to use a mock-sense of entitlement to get out of hot water.

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