Alexei Navalny’s wife joins tens of thousands of supporters calling for his freedom across Russia as police arrest 1,700 protesters

Alexei Navalny‘s wife Yulia joined tens of thousands of Russians at protests calling for the opposition leader’s release on Wednesday, as police arrested more than 1,700 demonstrators. 

Protests were organised by allies of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic over his failing health in jail.   

His spokeswoman was jailed for 10 days, and another close ally detained, on Wednesday, the same day that President Vladimir Putin delivered a state-of-the-nation speech in which he told the West not to cross Russia’s ‘red lines’ and pointedly made no mention of Navalny.

The US and France have warned Russia over consequences if Navalny is allowed to die in custody.   

France’s foreign minister told Russia on Thursday that the European Union would hold President Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities directly responsible if hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny died and it would impose new sanctions 

Alexei Navalny's wife Yulia joined tens of thousands of Russians at protests calling for the opposition leader's release on Wednesday, as police arrested more than 1,700 demonstrators

Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia joined tens of thousands of Russians at protests calling for the opposition leader’s release on Wednesday, as police arrested more than 1,700 demonstrators

Protesters in central Moscow chanted, 'Freedom to Navalny!' and 'Let the doctors in!'. Navalny's wife Yulia joined the rally in the capital, where demonstrators chanted her nameProtests were organised by allies of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic over his failing health jail. Demonstrators calls for Navalny to be seen by his doctors who have been refused access to the patient

Navalny’s wife Yulia joined the rally in the capital, where demonstrators chanted her name. Protests were organised by allies of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic over his failing health jail

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets all across the country in a rare show of defiance to long-standing President Vladimir Putin

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets all across the country in a rare show of defiance to long-standing President Vladimir Putin 

Supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend an unsanctioned rally calling for his release in Tverskaya Street, Moscow

Supporters of opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend an unsanctioned rally calling for his release in Tverskaya Street, Moscow

The protests came after doctors warned Navalny's health was deteriorating after he went on hunger strike three weeks ago, on March 31

The protests came after doctors warned Navalny’s health was deteriorating after he went on hunger strike three weeks ago, on March 31

There are concerns Navalny is close to kidney failure or cardiac arrest as a result of his hunger strike, but doctors have been refused access to assess him (pictured, protesters rally in Kaliningrad)

There are concerns Navalny is close to kidney failure or cardiac arrest as a result of his hunger strike, but doctors have been refused access to assess him (pictured, protesters rally in Kaliningrad)

Tens of thousands of Russian protesters called for Navalny's release on Wednesday night. France's foreign minister also told Russia on Thursday that the European Union would hold President Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities directly responsible if hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny died while in custody

Tens of thousands of Russian protesters called for Navalny’s release on Wednesday night. France’s foreign minister also told Russia on Thursday that the European Union would hold President Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities directly responsible if hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny died while in custody

Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny's YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher

Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny’s YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher

‘This is one of the last gasps of a free Russia, as many are saying. We came out for Alexei … against a war in Ukraine and the wild propaganda,’ said Marina, a student at the Moscow protest. OVD-Info, a group that monitors protests and detentions, said 1,782 people had been arrested, including 804 in St. Petersburg and 119 in the Urals city of Ufa. Protesters in central Moscow chanted, ‘Freedom to Navalny!’ and ‘Let the doctors in!’. Navalny’s wife Yulia joined the rally in the capital, where demonstrators chanted her name. The opposition had hoped the rallies would be the biggest in modern Russian history, and presented them as an attempt to save Navalny’s life by persuading the authorities to allow his own doctors to treat him. But turnout looked smaller than during protests earlier this year before Navalny was jailed for 2-1/2 years for parole violations related to what he said were politically motivated charges of embezzlement. Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny’s YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher.  Alexey Venediktov, a veteran journalist and head of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, said 10,000-15,000 people had rallied in Moscow and 7,000-9,000 in St Petersburg.

Navalny's wife Yulia attended Wednesday's protests, but turnout looked smaller than during demonstrationsearlier this year before Navalny was jailed for 2-1/2 years for parole violations related to what he said were politically motivated charges of embezzlement

Navalny’s wife Yulia attended Wednesday’s protests, but turnout looked smaller than during demonstrationsearlier this year before Navalny was jailed for 2-1/2 years for parole violations related to what he said were politically motivated charges of embezzlement

A young man shouts his support for Navalny with hundreds of other demonstrators at a rally in Moscow on Wednesday

A young man shouts his support for Navalny with hundreds of other demonstrators at a rally in Moscow on Wednesday

Protesters walked through the centre of Saint Petersburg during a demonstration in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Protesters walked through the centre of Saint Petersburg during a demonstration in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Heavily-armoured police officer wielding batons drag two protesters from the crowd in St Petersburg on Wednesday+51

Heavily-armoured police officer wielding batons drag two protesters from the crowd in St Petersburg on Wednesday

The opposition had hoped the rallies would be the biggest in modern Russian history, and presented them as an attempt to save Navalny's life by persuading the authorities to allow his own doctors to treat him

The opposition had hoped the rallies would be the biggest in modern Russian history, and presented them as an attempt to save Navalny’s life by persuading the authorities to allow his own doctors to treat him

OVD-Info, a group that monitors protests and detentions, said 1,782 people had been arrested, including 804 in St. Petersburg and 119 in the Urals city of Ufa

OVD-Info, a group that monitors protests and detentions, said 1,782 people had been arrested, including 804 in St. Petersburg and 119 in the Urals city of Ufa 

Police stood guard as protesters turned on their phone flashlights as a show of defiance during a pro-Navalny rally in Moscow

Police stood guard as protesters turned on their phone flashlights as a show of defiance during a pro-Navalny rally in Moscow

Thousands of demonstrators flood through the streets of St Petersburg on Wednesday as another protest took place in Moscow

Thousands of demonstrators flood through the streets of St Petersburg on Wednesday as another protest took place in Moscow

Thousands of protesters gathered in central Moscow called for opposition leader Alexei Navalny to receive proper medical care

Thousands of protesters gathered in central Moscow called for opposition leader Alexei Navalny to receive proper medical care

Riot police were deployed to contain protests in cities across the country last night to quell the unrest (pictured, officers block a street during a rally in Moscow)

Riot police were deployed to contain protests in cities across the country last night to quell the unrest (pictured, officers block a street during a rally in Moscow)

Riot police remove a protester from demonstrations against the detention of Navalny in St Petersburg last night

Riot police remove a protester from demonstrations against the detention of Navalny in St Petersburg last night

Thousands are seen in central Moscow last night to show solidarity with jailed opposition leader Navalny, despite the risk of arrest

Thousands are seen in central Moscow last night to show solidarity with jailed opposition leader Navalny, despite the risk of arrest

A protester is seen being bundled into a police van during a rally in St Petersburg. Police detained over 1,700 protesters are events across the country

A protester is seen being bundled into a police van during a rally in St Petersburg. Police detained over 1,700 protesters are events across the country

Navalny's allies said the protests were calling for the opposition leader, who survived a nerve agent attack last year, to receive medical treatment

Navalny’s allies said the protests were calling for the opposition leader, who survived a nerve agent attack last year, to receive medical treatment

A huge crowd turned out in support of Navalny in Moscow last night as the jailed opposition leader demands to see his own private doctor

A huge crowd turned out in support of Navalny in Moscow last night as the jailed opposition leader demands to see his own private doctor 

Demonstrators on the streets of Moscow last night, some holding signs to denounce Putin, brave the elements and the risk of arrest to call for justice

Demonstrators on the streets of Moscow last night, some holding signs to denounce Putin, brave the elements and the risk of arrest to call for justice 

State human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, said four doctors from outside the federal prison agency had visited Navalny on Tuesday and found no serious health problems, but protesters took to the streets in their thousands on Wednesday to demand the opposition leader receives proper medical treatment

State human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, said four doctors from outside the federal prison agency had visited Navalny on Tuesday and found no serious health problems, but protesters took to the streets in their thousands on Wednesday to demand the opposition leader receives proper medical treatment

A demonstrator bolts away from police officers during an unsanctioned demonstration in support of Navalny on Wednesday

A demonstrator bolts away from police officers during an unsanctioned demonstration in support of Navalny on Wednesday

The confrontation over Navalny's fate is a flashpoint in Moscow's dire relations with the West, already aggravated by economic sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and a Russian military buildup near Ukraine

The confrontation over Navalny’s fate is a flashpoint in Moscow’s dire relations with the West, already aggravated by economic sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and a Russian military buildup near Ukraine

The 44-year-old Navalny, who last year survived a nerve agent attack that Russian authorities denied carrying out, is thin and weak after starving himself for three weeks, and his allies say he risks kidney failure or cardiac arrest.   

The state human rights commissioner, Tatyana Moskalkova, said four doctors from outside the federal prison agency had visited Navalny on Tuesday and found no serious health problems. 

Russia says he has been treated as would any other prisoner.

The confrontation over Navalny’s fate is a flashpoint in Moscow’s dire relations with the West, already aggravated by economic sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.

But, speaking to France 2 television, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he did not believe Russia wanted to launch a military operation in eastern Ukraine despite massing thousands of troops on the border. 

Protesters held Russian flags as they came out in their tens of thousands to demonstrate in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Protesters held Russian flags as they came out in their tens of thousands to demonstrate in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny 

Thousands of Navalny supporters hold an unsanctioned protest in Moscow on Wednesday, risking arrest from state police

Thousands of Navalny supporters hold an unsanctioned protest in Moscow on Wednesday, risking arrest from state police

Police detain a man during a protest in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg. At least 1,700 people were arrested at rallies across the country

Police detain a man during a protest in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg. At least 1,700 people were arrested at rallies across the country

People scuffled with police at a pro-Navalny demonstration in Saint Petersburg. Several people were arrested before the protests even began

People scuffled with police at a pro-Navalny demonstration in Saint Petersburg. Several people were arrested before the protests even began

A woman argues with a police officer using a megaphone during a protest in Ulan-Ude, near the Russian-Mongolian border, on Wednesday

A woman argues with a police officer using a megaphone during a protest in Ulan-Ude, near the Russian-Mongolian border, on Wednesday 

A man holds a Russian flag during an opposition rally in Moscow. Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny's YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher

A man holds a Russian flag during an opposition rally in Moscow. Police said 6,000 people protested illegally in Moscow, while Navalny’s YouTube channel said turnout in the capital was up to 10 times higher

Russia says Navalny has been treated as would any other prisoner, but the opposition leader's doctors say differently, sparking the mass protests

Russia says Navalny has been treated as would any other prisoner, but the opposition leader’s doctors say differently, sparking the mass protests

Russian authorities warned protesters the demonstrations had not been authorised and warned against participating in them, but thousands still came out on Wednesday (pictured, a woman is arrested in Ulan-Ude)

Russian authorities warned protesters the demonstrations had not been authorised and warned against participating in them, but thousands still came out on Wednesday (pictured, a woman is arrested in Ulan-Ude)

Demonstrations took place across Russia on Wednesday, the same day as Putin's annual state-of-the-nation address (pictured, protesters in Omsk)

Demonstrations took place across Russia on Wednesday, the same day as Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address (pictured, protesters in Omsk)

Russian opposition leader Navalny's team had called for protests across the country at 7pm, only hours after President Putin's annual state-of-the-nation speech (pictured, protesters in Lenina Square, Moscow)

Russian opposition leader Navalny’s team had called for protests across the country at 7pm, only hours after President Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation speech (pictured, protesters in Lenina Square, Moscow)

UN human rights experts urged Moscow to let Navalny be medically evaluated abroad, though Russian officials claim there is nothing wrong with the opposition leader and that he should not get special treatment

UN human rights experts urged Moscow to let Navalny be medically evaluated abroad, though Russian officials claim there is nothing wrong with the opposition leader and that he should not get special treatment

Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and an ally, Lyubov Sobol, were detained near their Moscow homes hours before the rally in the capital (pictured) on Wednesday

Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and an ally, Lyubov Sobol, were detained near their Moscow homes hours before the rally in the capital (pictured) on Wednesday

A similar police presence was seen in St Petersberg, where heavily armed officers guarded Palace Square as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets

A similar police presence was seen in St Petersberg, where heavily armed officers guarded Palace Square as tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets

A man and a woman are led away by riot police in St Petersburg last night during pro-Navalny demonstrations

A man and a woman are led away by riot police in St Petersburg last night during pro-Navalny demonstrations

UN human rights experts urged Moscow to let Navalny be medically evaluated abroad. They said they believed his life was in danger as he was being held in ‘conditions that could amount to torture’. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and an ally, Lyubov Sobol, were detained near their Moscow homes hours before the rally in the capital on Wednesday.  European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs European Union summits, called their arrests ‘deplorable’. Yarmysh was later jailed for 10 days at a hearing for inciting people to protest. Sobol was released ahead of a hearing on Thursday. Navalny aide Ruslan Shaveddinov tweeted: ‘This is repression. This cannot be accepted. We need to fight this darkness.’

People attend a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Moscow. Dozens of police vans were deployed to the centre of Moscow. The square where activists had hoped to gather was cordoned off with metal barriers

People attend a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Moscow. Dozens of police vans were deployed to the centre of Moscow. The square where activists had hoped to gather was cordoned off with metal barriers

Opposition supporters attend a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. His team called for demonstrations in more than 100 cities in Russia

Opposition supporters attend a rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. His team called for demonstrations in more than 100 cities in Russia 

A protester in St Petersberg holds a placard reading 'changes' at a rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

A protester in St Petersberg holds a placard reading ‘changes’ at a rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Demonstrators march during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg

Demonstrators march during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Saint Petersburg

Police detained at least 1,700 people at protests across Russia in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, the OVD-Info protest monitoring group said (pictured, a women is detained at a demonstration in Ulan-Ude)

Police detained at least 1,700 people at protests across Russia in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Wednesday, the OVD-Info protest monitoring group said (pictured, a women is detained at a demonstration in Ulan-Ude) 

Thousands of Russians across the country took to the streets in support of the jailed Russian opposition leader, ignoring warnings from police to stay home (pictured, protesters in Vladivostok)

Thousands of Russians across the country took to the streets in support of the jailed Russian opposition leader, ignoring warnings from police to stay home (pictured, protesters in Vladivostok)

Dozens of police vans were deployed to the centre of Moscow. The square where activists had hoped to gather was cordoned off with metal barriers, as was Red Square. Up to about 300 people protested in Vladivostok, some toting banners saying ‘Freedom for political prisoners’ and ‘No war, repressions and torture!’ ‘Everyone realises the current authorities have nothing new to propose for the country. We need a new generation of politicians. I see Navalny as one of them,’ said Ilya, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern city of Vladivostok. Elsewhere, riot police used force to make arrests. In Magadan, in Russia’s far east, officers forced a man to the ground and pinned back his arms. Navalny launched his hunger strike on March 31 over what he said was the refusal of the prison holding him to provide him with proper treatment for leg and back pain. The state prison service has said his condition is satisfactory. Navalny’s activist network faces mounting pressure. State prosecutors in Moscow began legal moves last week to ban his groups as extremist organisations. US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the Russian government to provide Navalny with medical care and called for sanctions. ‘This is barbarism playing out in real time, and we cannot be silent,’ he said.

Navalny launched his hunger strike on March 31 over what he said was the refusal of the prison holding him to provide him with proper treatment for leg and back pain, sparking Wednesday's mass protests

Navalny launched his hunger strike on March 31 over what he said was the refusal of the prison holding him to provide him with proper treatment for leg and back pain, sparking Wednesday’s mass protests

Navalny's activist network faces mounting pressure. State prosecutors in Moscow began legal moves last week to ban his groups as extremist organisations, even as tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in a show of support

Navalny’s activist network faces mounting pressure. State prosecutors in Moscow began legal moves last week to ban his groups as extremist organisations, even as tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in a show of support

Protesters turned on their phone lights during Wednesday night's rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Protesters turned on their phone lights during Wednesday night’s rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Navalny: From poisoning to hunger strike 

August 20, 2020: Navalny is hospitalised in Omsk, Siberia, after losing consciousness during a flight

August 22: Navalny is put into a medically induced coma and transferred to a Berlin hospital

September 2: Berlin says tests carried out by a German army laboratory yielded ‘unequivocal evidence’ that he was poisoned with Novichok

September 4: Russia rejects claims it was behind the poisoning

September 7: Navalny emerges from coma while French and Swedish laboratories confirm Germany’s findings that Novichok was used. Putin condemns ‘unsubstantiated’ accusations

September 22: Navalny accuses Putin of being behind poisoning as he is discharged from hospital. Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov calls his claims ‘groundless and unacceptable’

October: Navalny releases a recording of him tricking a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agent into confessing that he tried to kill him. The FSB describes the phone call as a ‘provocation’.

January 17 2021: Navalny is arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after Russia’s prisons service alleged he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction 

January 19: Navalny releases video of his investigation into ‘Putin’s palace’, a lavish Black Sea property. Putin denies this

January: Tens of thousands of demonstrators demand Navalny’s release in late January. Police detain thousands  

February 2: Navalny is handed a near three-year prison term. 

February 5: The Kremlin expels German, Swedish and Polish diplomats for supporting Navalny. The three countries expel Russian diplomats in return

February 17: The European Court of Human Rights orders Russia to release Navalny ‘with immediate effect’. Russia accuses it of ‘interference’.

February 20: Moscow court dismisses Navalny’s appeal, but reduces the sentence to two-and-a-half years   

Separately he is convicted of defamation and fined 850,000 rubles (£8,027)

February 22: The EU sanctions four senior Russian officials

February 26: Navalny sent to penal colony in the Vladimir region  

March 2: The U.S. sanctions seven senior Russians and says its intelligence concluded that Moscow was behind Navalny’s poisoning.

March 15: Navalny says he is locked up in a ‘real concentration camp’ and accuses Russian authorities of torture by depriving him of sleep in prison

March 31: Navalny announces a hunger strike to demand proper medical treatment

April 17: After more than two weeks his doctors say his condition has rapidly deteriorated and he could go into cardiac arrest and ‘die any minute’

April 18: The U.S. warns Moscow of ‘consequences’ if Navalny dies in prison

France, Germany and the European Union join the growing international chorus of protest at Navalny’s plight 

April 19: Russia’s prison service says Navalny will be transferred to a hospital for inmates but deems his condition to be ‘satisfactory’

April 20: Navalny’s doctors and lawyers are denied access to him at the new penal colony

Russian state TV imposes a news blackout of Navalny’s hunger strike 

Today – April 21: Massive demonstrations called by Navalny’s team take place across Russia. 

Nearly 200 are arrested just hours after Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation speech 

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