international intrigue

Russia’s Pro-Democracy Protests Are Back, Sorta

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends his trial at the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow, Russia on September 17, 2014.
Photo: Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Though Russia’s pro-democracy movement — symbolized by a white ribbon and often dubbed Moscow’s “Snow Revolution” — had quieted down in recent months, protesters came out in full force Tuesday to defend anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny after he received a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence. (His brother Oleg will have to do hard time for the same length, allegedly for stealing $30 million rubles from Yves Rocher, a French company.)

Navalny, though ideologically not very different from Russian president Vladimir Putin, is a staunch anti-corruption activist and occasional anti-Kremlin political candidate. (Many believe the charges against him are politically motivated, too — hackers recently released government emails discussing how to frame him.) “Of all the possible types of sentence, this is the meanest,” Navalny said Tuesday, referring to his sentencing. “The government isn’t just trying to jail its political opponents – we’re used to it, we’re aware that they’re doing it – but this time they’re destroying and torturing the families of the people who oppose them.”

While the suspended sentence may seem like Navalny was getting off with a slap on the wrist for standing up to Putin, in reality, the felony conviction means he’s barred from running for public office for a decade after he’s done serving his term — thus, essentially eliminating one of the main viable opposition candidates. He won 27 percent of the vote in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral election, coming in second.

Navalny was already under house arrest before today’s sentencing, but he violated that shortly after his Tuesday court appearance when he sent out a tweet of himself on the way to the central protest. He was quickly detained, however, and returned to house arrest — this time with police watching over him.

The protests were also promoted by Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who made a glammed-up music video for the cause:

Altogether, at least 250 protesters were arrested. See the arrests, and more scenes from the protests, below:

Russia’s Pro-Democracy Protests Are Back, Sorta