An ally of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has announced plans for a new nationwide protest in support of the jailed politician, telling Russians to gather in residential courtyards on Sunday evening and turn on their mobile phone torches.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the incarceration of Navalny, a prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin
Police detained more than 11,000 people who took part in what they said were unsanctioned protests that the Kremlin condemned as illegal and dangerous.
Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally based outside Russia, said this weekend’s torch protest, which is reminiscent of tactics used by the anti-government opposition in neighbouring Belarus, should help distance protesters from the police.
Volkov called on people in major Russian cities to gather in residential courtyards near their homes at 5pm GMT and stand there for several minutes shining their mobile phone torches.
He suggested some people bring candles and make heart shapes out of them to mark Valentine’s Day, and photograph them from above in an event he said would last for 15 minutes. The idea, he said, would then be to flood social media with images of the brief protest.
“Thought you were the only one in the whole big block who is not indifferent to what’s happening in the country? You’ll see that’s not the case,” Volkov wrote in a post on Telegram.
“No OMON (riot police), no fear. Maybe it’ll seem like these 15 minutes will change nothing – but in fact they will change everything.“
Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russia for the first time since being poisoned last August in Siberia with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has questioned whether he was really poisoned.
He was jailed on 2 February after a court ruled he had violated the terms of a suspended sentence in an embezzlement case he says was trumped up.
The case has sparked fresh tensions between Russia and the west and renewed talk of sanctions. Navalny’s allies have urged the west to target individuals close to Putin with punitive measures.
Russia’s foreign ministry accused Navalny’s allies of treachery on Tuesday for discussing potential sanctions with the west.