Over the weekend, hundreds were arrested in Russia for participating in an unauthorized demonstration in protest of government corruption.
8,000 people attended the protest just in Moscow and similar demonstrations were planned in 100 cities across Russia. It was estimated by One independent Moscow radio station that 60,000 people participated in protests across the country.
Alexai Navalny, the leader of the anti-corruption Progress Party, was one of the hundred arrested on Sunday.
“I am proud of those who came to the streets today. You are the best people in the country and the hope of Russia having a normal future,” tweeted Navalny. “Today we are discussing (and condemning) corruption, not the detentions. Well, I was detained. So what. It OK. There are things in life that are worth being detained for.”
“Navalny called for the protest march late last week after saying that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of the ruling United Russia party has taken millions in bribes from local oligarchs, garnering big ticket items like real estate and yachts, according to him,” writes Forbes.
“It is pointless to comment on the propagandistic outbursts of a convicted opposition figure, who has already announced he is running some kind of election campaign and fighting against the authorities,” said Natalya Timakova, Medvedev’s spokeswoman to state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
While Medvedev’s actions ignited the protest, participants made it clear that they were unhappy with their president with chants like “Down with Putin.”
Putin and his government are especially cautious due to former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov’s murder in Kiev on Thursday.
According to civil rights watchdog OVD-INFO, more than 700 from the protest were detained in Moscow. Although the protest wasn’t granted a permit, they gathered on the streets anyways.
Some media outlets have even referred to the rally as the start of a “revolution.”
“Russia is no stranger to corruption and United Russia should be mindful of its consequences. The general perception in Russia is that an old-school clan of wealthy business owners and their friends in politics continue to carve up the country for themselves, much in the vein of the old autocratic Tsarist families,” writes Forbes. “As a result, the country’s economy remains stuck in traditional power systems run by oil and gas magnates, real estate tycoons and electricity and mining oligarchs who don’t want to cede power. A number of privatization initiatives touted by Putin for the past six years have gone nowhere due to these close-ties between corporate owners and senior government officials.”
The Kremlin’s response isn’t going to help Russia’s case with its citizens.
“Essentially what we saw yesterday in several places – probably especially in Moscow – is a provocation and a lie,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He also said that participants had been “promised financial rewards in the event of their detention by law enforcement agencies.”
Peskov praised the massive detainments as an “appropriate, highly professional and legal” response by officials. The U.S. government on the other-hand condemned the Russian government for arresting the protesters.
“The United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters throughout Russia on Sunday. Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” said Mark Toner, State Department spokesperson in a statement. “We were troubled to hear of the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny upon arrival at the demonstration, as well as the police raids on the anti-corruption organization he heads.”
Author’s note: This shows major instability in the Putin’s government. Unrest is often correlated to the economy and Russia’s economic problems will only get worse if the price of oil drops, and so will the political chaos.