NEW YORK — “Stop Putin! Stop war!” “We stand with Ukraine!” and “Free Navalny! Free political prisoners! Free Russia!” chanted over 300 demonstrators, mainly recent Russian immigrants, here Aug. 20. The protest was organized by supporters of Alexei Navalny, a framed-up and imprisoned liberal bourgeois opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Similar actions were held in the U.K., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Israel, as well as in Georgia and Armenia, which have large Russian émigré populations. Individual demonstrators were arrested in St. Petersburg and Moscow while others came out in Samara in southern Russia and Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan.
In a new Moscow trial and conviction Aug. 4, Navalny’s prison sentence was extended by 19 years. Putin keeps intensifying moves to silence opposition voices as his 18-month-old invasion of Ukraine takes losses and drags on.
One woman told the rally how Moscow’s military invasions of its “near abroad” began way before Ukraine with the 1992 intervention in Moldova, the 1994 and 1999 Chechnya wars and push into Georgia in 2008.
A young woman from Free Navalny named Anastasia told the crowd that her first protest — over a deadly Russian missile strike on a residential tower block in Dnipro July 28 — was in Moscow where she was detained. “Ukrainians are our brothers, not our enemies,” she said. Despite Putin’s repression, “a lot of people are against the war.”
On Aug. 19, a Russian rocket devastated a theater on the main square in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, killing seven people and injuring 144. After the attack, flowers reappeared in Moscow at the monument to Lesya Ukrainka, an early 20th century Ukrainian poet and writer. The statue has often been used by opponents of Putin’s war as a makeshift memorial to civilian Ukrainian victims.