Hundreds of women have attended protests in Moscow and St Petersburg on St. Valentine’s Day in support of Russian women prosecuted for political reasons.
The Chain Of Solidary And Love protest is also dedicated to imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who flew to Germany on February 10. Although no explanation was given for her departure, Navalnaya had recently been detained for taking part in unsanctioned rallies in support of her husband.
Images shared on social media on February 14 show women holding red roses, balloons, and heart signs with the names of female political prisoners written on them. Demonstrators also sang, “Love is stronger than fear,” the motto of the protests.
The organizers said on their Facebook page that the rallies were dedicated to the women who were “beaten and tortured by police during peaceful protests,” as well as “to everyone who spends their days in courts, police buses, and special detention centers.”
They said the “chain” along Moscow’s Old Arbat Street honors Navalnaya as well as lawyer Lyubov Sobol, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, municipal deputy Lucy Shtein, Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh, and Doctors’ Alliance head Anastasia Vasilyeva, who all face criminal charges for calling on supporters to rally for Navalny’s release last month.
Later on February 14, Navalny supporters plan a protest using light from mobile phones, flashlights, and candles to express support for him, despite a warning that people taking part could face criminal charges.
Navalny’s team has called on people across Russia to switch on their cell phone flashlights for 15 minutes beginning at 8 p.m. local time and shine the light into the sky from their homes or the courtyards of their apartment buildings.
Navalny, 44, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested on January 17 after returning to Russia from Germany where he had been treated for a nerve-agent poisoning he says was ordered by Putin. The Kremlin denies it had any role in the attack.
Navalny’s detention sparked outrage across the country and much of the West, with tens of thousands of Russians taking part in street rallies on January 23 and 31.
Police cracked down harshly on the demonstrations, putting many of Navalny’s political allies behind bars and detaining thousands more — sometimes violently — as they gathered on the streets.
With reporting by tvrain.ru, Reuters, hrw.org, and themoscowtimes.com
This post was originally published on Radio Free.