Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team has announced fresh protests for this Sunday, shifting their strategy from street demonstrations to neighborhood gatherings in an effort to avoid direct confrontations with riot police.
Russian authorities clamped down on two weekend rallies held in Navalny’s support late last month. Videos showed riot police using force against those who did not seem to resist detention, followed by overcrowded conditions in detention centers.
The new protests will involve supporters gathering in their building courtyards and holding up cellphone flashlights for a set period of time, Navalny’s regional network coordinator Leonid Volkov said. The tactics resemble the neighborhood protests that have been seen in neighboring Belarus following a brutal crackdown on election protests there last year.
“Hundreds of thousands of people took to the Russian streets on Jan. 23 and Jan. 31. The response was an unprecedented wave of violence and repression,” Volkov said, accusing President Vladimir Putin of “turning fear into his main and only weapon.”
“We need to find a way to overcome it and hold an event that riot police could not prevent and everyone could attend,” Volkov wrote on the Telegram social media app.
Addressing the apparent reversal from his earlier remarks on halting protests until this spring, Volkov said he regrets the awkward wording that led to disappointment among some protesters.
“My poorly worded phrase was interpreted by everyone that the protests are canceled. That was quite a difficult moment,” he said in a Tuesday interview with the MBKh Media news website.