Russians braved -60 degree weather and police brutality to demand opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s release.
Thousands of Russians across 200 cities spanning from Moscow to Siberia braved subzero temperatures and police brutality during pro-democracy protests in the country on Saturday.
The demonstrations came in response to the attempted assassination and subsequent arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which sparked ire among Russian citizens.
Navalny was poisoned in August last year and transferred to Germany for treatment, where doctors confirmed that the chemical agent Novichok was used. Navalny then helped investigate his own assassination together with Bellingcat, a news outlet. He famously phoned an FSB agent involved and tricked him into a confession.
The opposition leader returned to Russia on Jan. 17, where he was immediately arrested. His team published another investigation two days later, which purportedly shows President Vladimir Putin’s palace on the Black Sea. The investigation came alongside calls from Navalny to protest on Jan. 23, which were resoundingly heeded.
There have been over 3,000 arrests across the country, including 16 reporters, according to protest-tracking website OVD-Info, the most in the last four years. It’s not known how many people across the country participated, but videos and images show what appears to be tens of thousands of people in the streets.
In Siberia, people protested in -60 degree weather.
In Irkutsk, a small city bordering Mongolia, thousands filled the streets.
Protesters also lined the streets to the Kremlin in Moscow.
And thousands marched in St. Petersburg.
Protesters in Moscow threw snowballs at nearby police officers.
But it didn’t take long for police to use force during the protests, which had previously been deemed illegal.
One video shows a woman getting kicked in the stomach. According to the news outlet Mediazona, the woman had a concussion and was taken to the hospital.
In another video, police are seen harassing a small child as the crowd yells for him to be let go.
One reporter, who was arrested and subsequently released, recorded people being beaten on police buses.
And another video shows a woman being taken away by two men in civilian clothes.
The US Embassy in Russia tweeted in support of the protests, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs later labeled the tweet “hypocrisy.”
The striking photos and videos largely show protesters banding together against the police, sometimes appealing to their conscience.
Undaunted by the police response and governmental condemnation, Navalny’s organization called for more protests next week.
“This was the first step on the road to victory,” the Anti-Corruption Foundation tweeted. “See you again in a week.”