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3 Feb, 2021 11:05

Riot police use batons to break up unplanned demonstrations in central Moscow as Navalny supporters protest his prison sentence

Riot police use batons to break up unplanned demonstrations in central Moscow as Navalny supporters protest his prison sentence

Moscow police violently broke up protests and arrested hundreds of demonstrators on Tuesday night, as supporters of opposition figure Alexey Navalny took to the streets to rally against his three-and-a-half-year jail sentence.

In videos shared across social media, law enforcement officers were seen hitting protestors with their batons and knocking them to the ground.

In one clip, a man donning a high-vis journalist vest was filmed being hit over the head. Reports from Russia suggest the victim ran a pro-Navalny Telegram channel.

The rallies started in the center of Moscow on Tuesday evening, after Navalny was sentenced to time in prison. The opposition figure was found guilty of breaking the terms of a suspended sentence he received in 2014, when he was found guilty of embezzling 30 million rubles ($400,000) from two companies, including the French cosmetics brand Yves Rocher. Navalny and his supporters believe the case to be politically motivated, and the original decision was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights as “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”

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Following the judgment, key Navalny ally Leonid Volkov, based in Lithuania, called for his supporters to gather on Manezhnaya Square, a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin. By that time, the center of the city was already packed with armored police.

As the protests began, at around 10pm, videos started emerging of people being detained on the street.

Things quickly escalated, and footage showed arrests appearing to become harsher and more violent. On social media, one video showed a passenger being dragged from a car after he allegedly shouted an insult at police out of the window.

Although the protests seemed to be confined to central Moscow, a large police presence was also seen in the country’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

According to OVD-Info, an arrest-monitoring NGO that has received some Western funding in the past, 1,386 people were detained at some point on Tuesday in relation to the Navalny court case. Some would have been quickly released and others kept in custody.

Navalny returned to Moscow on January 17, almost five months after he arrived in Germany in an induced coma. He was immediately arrested. According to German doctors, he had been poisoned in August with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny says the Kremlin was behind the attack – an allegation that has been flatly denied by Putin’s spokesman. Dmitry Peskov has accused the opposition figure of having a persecution complex.

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