Massive anti-government protests have wracked Russia since Vladimir Putin jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in February – after allegedly being poisoned in Siberia on orders from Moscow. He later was taken to Germany for treatment and arrested upon his return to Russia.
The United States, and European countries have called for his release, with Russian leaders refusing. Navalny is now on a hunger strike demanding proper medical treatment for acute pain in his back and legs.
After three huge protests in the past two months, reports Reuters, Navalny’s supporters said they would announce a date for a new nationwide street protest they hope will be the largest in modern Russian history.
They plan to hold the demonstrations once 500,000 people have registered to attend. So far 370,000 people have reportedly registered.
Russian authorities have pledged to break up the protests they have labeled as illegal.
In preparation for what the Russian security forces expect will be possibly violent riots, the Ministry of Interior which handles most civil disturbances, has requested more than 2,000 police ‘anti-riot’ kits worth some 239 million roubles ($3.15 million), notes Reuters.
These riot control kits include body armor, a helmet and leg protectors. Separately, the ministry also requested 1,625 ‘protective kits,’ 200 helmets and more than 400 bulletproof vests, reported Reuters. In February, the Russian prison authority ordered “hundreds of tasers, smoke grenades and protective gear after nationwide rallies in support of Navalny.”
We can expect these demonstrations, and how the Kremlin security forces respond, will be a major test of Putin’s authoritarian rule. ADN