Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team has announced fresh protests for this Sunday, shifting their strategy from street demonstrations to neighborhood gatherings in an effort to avoid direct confrontations with riot police.
Russian authorities clamped down on two weekend rallies held in Navalny’s support late last month. Videos showed riot police using force against those who did not seem to resist detention, followed by overcrowded conditions in detention centers.
The new protests will involve supporters gathering in their building courtyards and holding up cellphone flashlights for a set period of time, Navalny’s regional network coordinator Leonid Volkov said. The tactics resemble the neighborhood protests that have been seen in neighboring Belarus following a brutal crackdown on election protests there last year.
“Hundreds of thousands of people took to the Russian streets on Jan. 23 and Jan. 31. The response was an unprecedented wave of violence and repression,” Volkov said, accusing President Vladimir Putin of “turning fear into his main and only weapon.”
“We need to find a way to overcome it and hold an event that riot police could not prevent and everyone could attend,” Volkov wrote on the Telegram social media app.
Addressing the apparent reversal from his earlier remarks on halting protests until this spring, Volkov said he regrets the awkward wording that led to disappointment among some protesters.
“My poorly worded phrase was interpreted by everyone that the protests are canceled. That was quite a difficult moment,” he said in a Tuesday interview with the MBKh Media news website.
Navalny Comes Out of Coma, Berlin Hospital Says
Prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been taken out of his medically induced coma and is being gradually taken off a ventilator, the Charité hospital in Berlin where he has been undergoing treatment for the past two weeks said Monday.
German authorities have said that Navalny, Russia’s de facto opposition leader, was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok family, the substance that Britain has said was used to poison a former Russian spy on its soil in 2018. The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner fell violently ill on a flight to Moscow on Aug. 20 and was evacuated to Germany after two days of treatment in Siberia.
“The patient has been removed from his medically induced coma and is being weaned off mechanical ventilation,” Charité said in a statement.
Navalny is “responding to verbal stimuli,” it added.
The hospital warned, however, that the long-term health effects of Navalny’s “severe poisoning” were still unknown.
Russian authorities have maintained that they have not seen evidence that Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. The Kremlin has said it was willing to work with Germany in investigating Navalny’s poisoning but urged Berlin to share its findings.
Doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia said they diagnosed him with a metabolic disease. On Friday, Siberian toxicologists pinned Navalny’s coma on dieting, excess drinking, stress or fatigue.
Navalny’s associates have attempted but failed to get the Russian authorities to open a criminal investigation into his attempted murder.