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Protests in Russia erupt after the detention of Alexey Navalny

On January 17, Alexey Navalny, the key opposition figure in Russia, was arrested at the Sheremetyevo airport of Moscow when re-entering his country after having received medical treatments in Germany. After having been detained for 15 days. He was then sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison for violating probation terms from a suspended sentence on money-laundering conviction.

Navalny is a lawyer and politician who has been engaged in anti-corruption and anti-government activity for over 17 years. In 2016, he started the presidential campaign but was denied eligibility to run for the presidency by the Supreme Court of Russia for a prior criminal conviction. The well-known opposition activist was poisoned in August 2020 with a Novichok agent, the same poison that killed the Russian government opponents in the UK in 2018, fell into a coma and was then transferred to Germany for medical treatment.

The detention and conviction of Navalny have caused a series of large scale protests in over 150 Russian cities since January 23. The vast majority of the protests were peaceful; however, there was a high number of reports of police violence against the protesters. In three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people took part in the protests, while more than 10,000 protesters were detained.

The United Nations, Council of Europe and the European Union, together with many States and NGOs urged the Russian authorities to release the detained protesters and ensure that demonstrations are handled in line with Russia’s obligations under international human rights law.

According to OHCHR and Council of Europe, Alexey Navalny’s imprisonment decision is based on a criminal conviction which the European Court of Human Rights found to have been arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable and, as a consequence, in violation of Articles 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a party.