A record number of more than 5,000 people, including more than 80 journalists, were detained during rallies in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia on Sunday. The police used force against the protesters, and numerous beatings and the use of electric shockers were recorded. In particular, Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was among 1,450 detainees in Moscow.

“If we keep silence, they will come for each of us tomorrow,” she wrote on Instagram before joining the rallies.

Navalnaya was later released.

In Moscow, where, according to police estimates, about 2,000 people took part in the protests, seven metro stations have been closed and pedestrian traffic in the city center has been restricted so far.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell condemned the mass detentions and use of force against protesters in Russia. “I deplore widespread detentions and disproportionate use of force against protesters and journalists in Russia. People must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate without fear of repression. Russia needs to comply with its international commitments,” he said.

Earlier, Washington also condemned the actions of Russian security forces. New U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticised the Russian authorities for the harsh actions of security forces against participants in anti-government demonstrations. “The United States condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight,” he tweeted.

However, Moscow regarded this as “gross interference” in Russia’s internal affairs. “We demand an end to interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said in a statement posted on social media.

As a reminder, rallies in support of Navalny have been held in different cities of Russia for the second weekend in a row. His associates called for nationwide demonstrations ahead of the opposition leader’s trial, which will begin on Tuesday, 2 February. Russian police say the protests are illegal because they were not sanctioned by the authorities.

Natalia Tolub

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