Prague protesters demand Russia release Alexei Navalny
About a hundred demonstrators in the evening in front of Prague’s Rudolfinum in Jan Palach Square have called on Russia to release the opposition leader Alexei Navalny immediately and end political repression in the country. The assembly to express support for Navalný has been held in the capital several times.
“The sentence of two years and eight months in prison is draconian because it is a sentence that will be extended as long as Putin is in power,” said protest organizer Anton Litvin. He plans to hand over the petition sheet with the signatures of the supporters of the release of Navalný to the European Union representatives.
In it, the petition’s signatories called for a reassessment of European relations with Russia and a postponement of cooperation negotiations until, among other things, all political prisoners in Russia have been released, free elections and annexed territory have been returned to Ukraine.
The rally in support of Navalný began at Jan Palach Square in Prague at 6:30 p.m. The protesters, who were mostly young people, shouted slogans such as “freedom to Navalny” in Russian and sang. The protest was peaceful. Its participants kept their distance and wore veils or respirators. About a dozen police officers were supervising the spot to observe government measures to prevent the coronavirus infection from spreading. In addition to banners, some protesters also held flags, including the historic Belarusian flag with a red stripe in the middle of two white horizontal lines or the EU flag. After about two hours from the beginning of the event, the participants parted peacefully.
Russian police detained Navalny on January 17, right after his return from Germany, where he was being treated for poisoning with a nerve-paralytic substance. He blames the Russian secret service for the opposition politician and personally President Vladimir Putin.
On Tuesday, a Moscow court charged Navalny’s former suspended sentence of 3.5 years to unconditional. According to the Russian media, the sentence’s execution will include the time the prominent critic of the Kremlin was under house arrest, so Navalnyj is to spend almost three years behind bars. His lawyer has already announced that she will appeal against the verdict.
Czech diplomacy summoned Russian ambassador Alexander Zmeevsky on Wednesday. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleš Chmelař protested against Navalný’s conviction and brutal police interventions against Russia’s peaceful demonstrators. The ministry also called on Russia to release Navalny immediately. According to the Russian embassy, the interference of Prague in Russia’s internal affairs is inadmissible.