Russia: Appalling use of force and arrests of peaceful protesters

All peaceful protesters detained today in Moscow and other Russian cities must be released immediately and unconditionally, and all instances of unlawful use of force by police promptly and effectively investigated, Amnesty International said. Today’s arrests and violent dispersals were the latest crackdown by Russian authorities on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters demanding the release of Alexei Navalny. 

“Russian authorities have arrested so many people in recent weeks that detention centres in Moscow have run out of space, and peaceful protesters are being held in deportation facilities. Trying to lock up every critic in the country is a losing game – the Russian authorities should instead recognize how much the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression mean to a growing number of Russians, and allow people to express their opinions without fear of retaliation. 

“The Kremlin is waging a war on the human rights of people in Russia, stifling protesters’ calls for freedom and change. This is a desperate attempt to silence criticism, and it needs to stop,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director. 

“All peaceful protesters and activists detained for peacefully participating in protests are prisoners of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. Police must stop using unlawful force and instead uphold their obligation to protect the human rights of Russian people.” 


On 31 January, at least 4,000 peaceful protesters were detained in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other Russian cities, during brutal dispersals of rallies demanding the release of Aleksei Navalny, a popular opposition figure and prisoner of conscience. This takes the number of people detained for protesting in the past week to more than 8,000. The number of detainees put under “administrative arrest” in Moscow during a previous wave of protests on 23 January was so high that the detention centres became overcrowded and more than 100 detainees were placed in temporary detention facilities where foreign nationals awaiting deportation are held. 

In the lead-up to this latest day of protest, the authorities have arrested dozens of leading opposition activists and associates of Aleksei Navalny from the Anti-Corruption Foundation, on numerous spurious criminal and administrative charges. Aleksei Navalny’s brother Oleg, the Anti-Corruption Foundation lawyer Lyubov Sobol, the head of Navalny’s headquarters in Moscow Oleg Stepanov, Pussy Riot punk band member Maria Alyokhina and the leader of Alliance of Doctors union Anastasia Vasilyeva will remain in detention at least until 23 March after being charged with violation of sanitary and epidemiological standards under Article 236 of Russia’s Criminal Code.