Police Force Their Way into Office of Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny

Police forced their way into the Moscow office of Alexei Navalny, political opposition leader, on Sunday and began questioning people, according to images broadcast online by his supporters.

This move was instigated when hundreds of supporters gathered for a nationwide day of protests against the Russian authorities, which was called for by Navalny to boycott what he calls “pseudo-elections” happening on March 18.

Roman Rubanov, a Navalny supporter, wrote on social media that the police said they were looking into reports that there was a bomb in the office, something he said came as a surprise to him.

Navalny called on Russian citizens to gather at rallies in the center of Moscow and Saint Petersburg with placards and leaflets, a move he knew would be likely to provoke police forces. Further protests have been planned in over 100 cities across the country. In most cities, permission to stage rallies was received, Navalny said.

“Your life is at stake,” he told supporters in a video message. “How many more years do you want to live with these thieves, bigots and perverts in power? We’ve already endured this for 18 years.”

Navalny sent out a warning as the protests approached, in the form of a tweet, saying that the authorities planned to target his younger supporters. The message implored parents not to allow their children to attend the protests. “Raids are possible,” it read.

Mr. Navalny is seen as the only man capable of beating Putin in the upcoming election in March 2018. However, due to a criminal conviction, election officials have banned him from running for president. He claims the conviction is corrupt and politically-motivated.

Putin hopes to secure his run for a fourth term and, if he succeeds, this will make him the longest-serving Russian Leader since Joseph Stalin.

Navalny spoke at one of his electoral campaigns outside Moscow, labelling Mr. Putin a “poor leader”.

"It is you, Vladimir Putin, who's turned this country into a source of personal enrichment for yourself, your family and your friends. That's why you should no longer be president. You are a bad president."

Mr. Navalny is, for many Russians, the man to rid their country of corruption. He highlighted Putin’s alleged wrong-doings, saying he has taken "from poor people, oil, gas and metal worth trillions of dollars, sold it abroad, rewarding those people by turning them from poor to destitute"

Navalny has said that he will use his following to organize “voters’ strikes” to encourage people to stay away from polling stations on election day.

In a message released by Mr. Navalny minutes after the decision to ban him, he called on his supporters to boycott the vote.

“Going to the polls right now is to vote for lies and corruption.”

“The procedure that we’re invited to take part is not an election,” he said. “Only Putin and the candidates he has hand-picked are taking part in it.”

Tom Day

29 January 2018 17:22