Supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny face the prospect of indefinite house arrest, in what activists say is an attempt by the Kremlin to “shut down” anti-government protests.
Ten prominent activists have been under house arrest for the past two months, including two Pussy Riot members, Masha Alekhina and Lucy Shtein, as well as Navalny’s brother Oleg, and Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer with the opposition leader Anticorruption Foundation.
They are accused of violating coronavirus restrictions by asking Russians to take to the streets. More than 10,000 people were arrested in January, during pro-Navalny demonstrations that took place in 180 Russian towns and cities. The protests were the largest in a decade.
Alekhina’s case is due to be heard Thursday in Moscow’s Basmanny district court. She has been unable to leave his flat, meet other people, visit the doctor or use the Internet. The police have confiscated his passport. His house arrest will run until June 23 and he faces up to two years in prison.
“I’m a bit stuck. My arrest will last until mid-summer, ”Alekhina told the Guardian by phone. “I think the Kremlin is extremely scared. The plan is to close down all those who are active in the opposition. There has been an extreme level of violence and brutality against the protesters. “
Alekhina said her “crime” was a single Instagram post in which he announced that he would participate in a rally. House arrest meant he couldn’t leave the country or earn a living by acting, he said. He was writing his second book on his anti-Putin activities, he added.
On Wednesday, artists, directors, musicians and producers wrote an open letter to the Russian authorities calling for Alekhina and Shtein’s release and an immediate end to their criminal prosecution.
The signers include actors Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Sheen, James Norton, Gillian Anderson and Mia Farrow, as well as musicians Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters and artist Marina Abramović. The filmmakers Spike Jonze and Pedro Almodóvar also gave their support.
Alekhina, 32, has already spent two years in prison after performing a protest song against Putin at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the letter noted. She was jailed in 2012 with former Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova and convicted of hooliganism.
“These baseless charges are part of the Russian government’s campaign to silence activists and dissuade people from further protests sparked by corruption and the unjust and politically motivated imprisonment of Alexei Navalny,” the letter read.
“Ms. Alekhina’s imprisonment and continued persecution directly violate international human rights laws and standards that protect freedom of thought, expression and expression.”
There seems to be little chance that the criminal case will be dropped. The Basmanny court where Alekhina is to appear, followed by Shtein on Friday, is known for a sentence that is in accordance with the Kremlin’s wishes. It has inspired an ironic phrase: “Basmanny justice”.
Other defendants in what has been called the “sanitary” case are directly linked to Navalny’s campaign organization or are well known in opposition politics. Shtein, 24, has been a Moscow city deputy for three years. Two fellow independent deputies are also under house arrest.
On Wednesday, Basmanny’s court refused to lift restrictions about Sobol, who has been officially labeled a “foreign agent” under controversial legislation. The court rejected a request to allow her to leave her apartment to take her daughter to school and attend church on Sundays.
Sobol’s lawyer, Vladimir Voronov, said that unlike Sobol, who is permanently confined to his apartment, people detained in pre-trial detention centers were taken for an hour’s walk every day. She intends to run as an opposition candidate in the September elections for the state Duma, he added.
Other people under house arrest include Anastasia Vasilyeva, a close ally of Navalny and director of the Doctors Alliance union. He treated Navalny in 2017 when an alleged “patriot” attacker threw green paint in his face, blinding him in one eye.
In a remarkable display of defiance, Vasiliyeva he continued to play Beethoven on the piano in his flat when the police showed up in January. Others accused in the same case They are Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, the head of its Moscow headquarters, Oleg Stepanov, and Nikolai Lyaskin, leader of Navalny’s unregistered Future Russia party.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism