Russian police detained protesters on Sunday, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as they tried to rally anti-government sentiment to confront Putin one year before the presidential elections.
Navalny would be the opposition candidate to face Putin, although victory seems unlikely as the ex-KGB still enjoys high approval ratings as he carries out his third period in office.
The Kremlin justified the apprehension of Navalny saying that plans for a protest in central Moscow were illegal. About 600 people were detained amid the protests.
Opposing to Putin: An uphill battle
Police forces report that at least 7,000 protesters had taken Tverskaya Street and its surroundings as detentions started to take place. Protesters chanted against Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev, accusing them of corruption and criminal activity.
Anti-riot forces barricaded the place and launched tear gas at the crowds, while the crowd chanted and whistled in protest to the arrests.
Police went and captured Navalny for being the leading political activist behind the protest. He has called out on Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after it was revealed that he has amassed a fortune worth well over $1 billion, including mansions, yachts, vineyards, and eccentric luxuries that go well far beyond his salary as the Russian Prime Minister.
Navalny was charged with extremism and his group was accused of broadcasting an illegal rally. International news sources agree that these are the largest protests in Russia since 2011 and 2012 after opposition leaders called out on parliamentary electoral fraud.
“The Kremlin sees us as their enemy, but what should I do? I’m not going away. I live here. I’m going to live here,” Navalny stated several days before the protest when Russian authorities had warned about detaining anyone inviting people to join the rally.
State news media, which comprises 9 out of 10 news networks in Russia, did not discuss the nationwide demonstrations, and the ones who did, categorized it as dangerous acts of propaganda. On the other hand, social media posts indicated that protests took place all over the country.
Томск сейчас #ДимонОтветит #26марта pic.twitter.com/yFsx4YkQaN
— Алёна (@AlionaKot) March 26, 2017
Иркутская duck life pic.twitter.com/1H4jeN0Jpi
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) March 26, 2017
Уфа. Опять никто не пришел pic.twitter.com/gpMG2UbBja
— КухаркаУфа (@KyxapkaUfa) March 26, 2017
Protesters did not quail at the arrests, as even children joined the demonstration. According to The Washington Post, protested chanted “You can’t jail us all!” while a man held yellow rubber ducks, mocking how Navalny reported that one of Medvedev’s mansions had a house just for his ducks.
This is the case of Milovka Manor, located near the town of Plyos, northeast of Moscow. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation photographed the compound, which was determined to be 80 hectares large, with its own marina, ski slope, giant chess board, and three helipads.
The mansion was acquired for an approximate of $506 million, while more money was put into upgrading it. The manor was transferred to the Foundation for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage in 2011, even if Medvedev and his family regularly inhabit the place, according to GPS tags on their Instagram posts.