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More than 2,000 demonstrators have been detained as Russians nationwide took to the streets in Russia for a second-straight weekend of protests demanding the release of jailed opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny (a confessing Christian) amid a sweeping crackdown on his supporters. Riot police were out in force in Moscow and St. Petersburg, rounding up protesters as they assembled for nationwide rallies that had been scheduled to begin at noon local time. More than 460 people in the capital had reportedly been arrested as demonstrations there were delayed after city transportation links were closed. In St. Petersburg, one police officer waved a baton in front of a  journalist’s face when questioned why he was detaining one of the more than 200 people reportedly arrested there.

Protesters in the Far East and Siberia braved subfreezing temperatures and a heavy riot-police presence to start the day’s demonstrations.  It is reported that there were more than 2,100 arrests early in the day’s events, including more than 120 people in the Far East city of Vladivostok, over 190 in Krasnoyarsk, and several journalists in other towns and cities. An accredited freelance correspondent, Andrei Afanasyev, was detained in the Far East city of Blagoveshchensk as he was heading to cover protests there. As reports that multiple journalists wearing jackets identifying themselves as members of the press had been detained in rallies across the country, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow called on Russian authorities to respect international human rights and the freedom of the press.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, said in a tweet that the United States “condemns the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful protesters and journalists by Russian authorities for a second week straight. We renew our call for Russia to release those detained for exercising their human rights, including Aleksei Navalny.” One protester told Current Time that “the scale of the government’s reaction to the last rally [on January 24] gives reason to believe that there were worries” that led to “panicked excuses” to close central Moscow. Russian authorities had braced for a groundswell of protests, with police issuing warnings that participants at “illegal” rallies will face criminal charges for violating coronavirus-related health restrictions.

Last weekend, almost 4,000 people were detained in demonstrations in more than 110 cities in some of the largest anti-government rallies in years. With last weekend’s protests some of the biggest the country has seen in years, Russian authorities this week ramped up pressure by detaining a number of close Navalny supporters in an apparent effort to limit their ability to mobilize. Many were detained and charged with violating restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic by calling for mass protests.

Please pray:

* For the release of Navalny and all of those being detained illegally.

* For corruption to be brought into the light and for perpetrators to be held accountable and brought to justice.

* For a return to true democracy and freedom of speech in Russia.

Source: International Prayer Connections