Although the next massive street protests against Aleksey Navalnys capture have been postponed until spring, Russia was today focused on meetings and actions. Under the hashtag #LiefdesterkerdanAngst, support was given to the opposition leader and other political prisoners in an alternative way.
For example, online photos and videos appeared tonight of the so-called light protest, an action in which Russians formed hearts all over the country with the flashlight of their phone or candles. They did that in their common courtyards, from behind their windows or in front of their house on the street. From Moscow to the Far East of Russia.
In Moscow, the protest looked like this:
For a different protest this afternoon, dozens of women gathered in the center of Moscow. Despite the cutting wind and a temperature of -20, they formed a human chain through the historic Arbat Street. By doing so, they wanted to give a heart to Navalnys wife Yulia and other women who oppose President Putin.
The action was inspired by last summer and autumn protests in neighbouring Belarus. On successive Sundays, women formed miles of queues after thousands of protesters against President Lukashenko had been beaten up and ended up behind bars for a long time.
Let voice hear
Aleksandra (20) thinks that everyone should be here today. “It is our right, as free citizens, to make our voices heard. Our voice will not be heard during the elections. But they cannot forbid us from going out the door and speaking out here. We want to show that the women who are now fighting the authorities, such as Yulia Navalnaya, are not alone.”
Like all other protesters, she wears something red, in her case a red hat. Others hold red roses, wear a red scarf or have red hearts pinned on their clothes. They are subtle references to the red dress Yulia Navalnaya wore when her husband was sentenced to over 2.5 years in prison on February 2.
Katja (22) is here today for the first time. With hat, fur collar and mouthcap, shes almost unrecognizable. Is she afraid of being arrested? “Yes,” she says. “But because this is a protest with almost only women, it feels safer. We are simply more peaceful”.
“ It is not normal for people to be arrested for taking part in a peaceful gathering,” says Ksenia (27). She brought heart balloons today. “We are not hooligans throwing Molotov cocktails on the Kremlin, but loving people who only want one thing: that our government no longer oppresses us”.
The Valentines campaign follows the brutality of police action against Navalny supporters in recent weeks. The public support events began after Navalnys arrest and imprisonment immediately after his return from Germany, where he recovered from his poisoning with the Novichok nerve gas. More than 10,000 people were arrested during the protests on 23 January, 31 January and 2 February.
“Ready to be scared.”
Aleksandra was also arrested on February 2, when she participated in the protests. “They put me in an arrest van and held me for hours. At that time, I explained carefully what I came to do, namely to demonstrate peacefully. I didnt provoke anyone, and I didnt break any law. Not then, and not today”.
She has to report to court in two days, then shell hear what punishment shes getting. “I dont know what awaits me yet. But Im done being scared. As soon as we allow fear, the government has won.
And that is the message of all those who have dared themselves on the streets today or lit their lights, despite all the warnings of the authorities: “Love is stronger than fear”.