Russia: Over 1,000 Arrested in Protests, Opposition Leader Hospitalized

Moscow authorities detained on Saturday more than 1,000 protesters who were demanding free elections while opposition leader Alexei Navalny was hospitalized after being exposed to a substance that resulted in an allergic reaction.

Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny (Evgeny Feldman, Novaya Gazeta CC BY 3.0)Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny (Evgeny Feldman, Novaya Gazeta CC BY 3.0)Though counts of the detainees varied, media and the government agreed that over 1,000 people were arrested during the protest, which began after Moscow election authorities refused to register independent candidates for the upcoming city council elections.

City officials claimed that the candidates failed to provide the 5,000 signatures required to run, while opponents insisted they met the threshold. 

Police responses were particularly violent, juxtaposed by the overwhelmingly peaceful crowds that sustained beatings, broken limbs, and more. 

Navalny was serving a 30-day sentence for pushing people to protest the government when he suffered an allergic reaction, raising concerns over his health informed by a history of Russian opposition leaders, journalists, and whistleblowers dying under suspicious circumstances.  

Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokeswoman, said he has not had similar reactions in the past, and was supposedly only given the food that he shared with five other cellmates. Authorities said that he will be returning to the same facility on Monday where he initially fell ill, without any announcements regarding a screening for toxic substances in his cell. 

Continuing a trend of front-page resistance, Russian newspaper RBC published a cover that displayed their count of arrested protesters. Managing Editor of Meduza, Kevin Rothrock, questioned whether there was a conflict between the Kremlin and Moscow officials over the protests, as allegedly the decision to publish front-pages in support of Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov was done with Putin’s approval.

Among the arrested are Navalny advisor Vladimir Milov, who says he has spent 36 hours in a cell without light, Konstantin Konovalov, the designer of the current Moscow Metro logo, and a TVRain journalist who caught the detention on film.

With some outlets reporting arrest counts as high as 1,400, Moscow’s detention capacity became alarmingly tight, with activists saying 1,500 is max capacity for short-term centers.

Despite the brutal reaction to Saturday’s protests, another unauthorized rally has been planned for this upcoming Saturday, making it the third straight weekend of protests in the city.