‘Putin Is a Thief.’ Thousands of Pro-Navalny Protesters Detained as U.S. Condemns Crackdown
The protests are a defining moment for the opposition as President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000, increasingly seeks to silence the opposition. Although Navalny remains a polarizing figure in Russia—a September survey by the Levada Center, an independent pollster in Moscow, found that 20% of Russians support Navalny’s work, while 50% disapprove—dissatisfaction against the Putin regime is growing. “[The protests] will speak more about the strength of the opposition against Putin, than Navalny’s popularity,” says Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of Moscow-based political consultancy firm, R. Politik.
A major driving force behind the protests, says Stanovaya, is Navalny’s video exposé earlier this week claiming that Putin spent $1.35 billion in illicit funds provided by members of his inner circle to build an opulent palace in a Black Sea resort town. The investigation, posted to the activist’s YouTube channel on Jan. 19, has been viewed more than 58 million times. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, has called the claims “pure nonsense.” Videos on Saturday showed protestors in the far eastern city of Vladivostok shouting “Putin is a thief!”