Rallies in support of Alexey Navalny and other political prisoners took place in cities all over the world
In January 2023, Alexey Navalny’s associates announced the launch of a #FreeNavalny campaign, with the goal of uniting “the efforts of people around the world” to secure his release. January 20 and January 21 saw rallies in various countries in support of the imprisoned politician and other Russian political prisoners. Demonstrators also protested against the war in Ukraine.
In Moscow, Ekaterina Varenik held a one-woman protest at the monument to Ukrainian writer Lesya Ukrainka, where a spontaneous memorial to victims of the January 14 missile strike on Dnipro appeared earlier in the week. Varenik stood with a sign reading “Ukraine, not enemies to us, but brothers” until she was arrested. According to human rights media project OVD-Info, she was charged with “discrediting” the army and may face 15 days in jail.
Several dozen people came to a rally in support of Russian political prisoners at Congress Hall, not far from the Russian Embassy. Local outlet TVNet writes that demonstrators chanted “Free Navalny,” “Free Ilya Yashin,” and “Free Russia.” Several participants also protested the war in Ukraine, chanting “Out of Ukraine!” and “No to war!”
More than 100 people gathered at the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, reports journalist Alexander Plushev. According to the publication Volna, participants numbered between 150 and 200. Online publication Sota writes that Anastasia Shevchenko, the ex-coordinator of the Open Russia organization, was at the rally. Shevenchko was sentenced to three years on a suspended sentence in Russia for cooperating with an “undesirable organization.”
Around 200 people gathered at a rally at the Russian Embassy to Estonia. Political scientist Sergey Shiryaev gave a speech. The crowd chanted “Russia will be free!” “Free political prisoners!” “Putin to the Hague!” and “Putin is Terrorist Number One!” reports Baltic news outlet Delfi.
Protestors gathered near the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern theater. They carried Ukrainian and anti-war Russian flags and posters with the names and photographs of destroyed Ukrainian cities. In a video posted by Sotavision, musicians play the song “We Walk in Silence” by Soviet-Russian punk band Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense), with some lyrics replaced by the phrase “Glory to Ukraine.”
In the capital of Catalonia, a protest in support of political prisoners coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations. Law enforcement said that one department in the mayor’s office is responsible for protests, and a different one handles cultural events. They evidently didn’t know there would be two simultaneous gatherings, writes Sota.
Members of the Russian opposition — including Anton Mikhalchuk, a member of the Free Russia Foundation, and Boris Zolotarevsky, the former coordinator of Navalny’s team in Chelyabinsk — spoke at a rally in the capital of Georgia. The rally in Tbilisi attracted counter protestors, who said Russians should rally at the Kremlin, and reminded Navalny supporters that he spoke disrespectfully about Georgia during the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.
60 people participated in a rally at the Russian Embassy in the Armenian capital. The protest lasted about an hour and ended without any arrests, though police kept the crowd away from the embassy building.
In the U.S., a rally in support of Russian political prisoners took place on the Pacific island of Guam, as well as protests in a number of other U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, and Orlando.
Police broke up a rally in support of Russian political prisoners in the capital of Pro-Russian Kyrgyzstan. Sota writes that police first asked protestors (around 30 people) to move to a different location, and then told them that foreign citizens aren’t allowed to hold public demonstrations in Bishkek, and made them disperse.
At a rally in support of political prisoners in the Austrian capital, activists unfurled a 30-meter (nearly 100 feet) banner reading “You may crucify freedom, but the human soul knows no shackles!” In August 1976, the artists Yury Rybakov and Oleg Volkov left the same inscription on the wall of the Peter and Paul Fortress, in St. Petersburg. They were sentenced to six and seven years in prison, respectively, for the act, which was one of the first examples of protest art in the USSR. A 23-year-old Vladimir Putin, who was a KGB lieutenant at the time, participated in the investigation.