Sunday was a very sad day for Alexey Navalny, who launched his campaign to run for the Kremlin one year ago. After his candidacy for the Russian presidential elections on March 18 was rejected at every level by the federal authorities, his mobilization for a voter boycott also turned out to be a flop, or close to one.
His press office was quick to provide numbers: events held in 118 cities, 260 detained, four arrests. “Despite the cold weather, with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius in some places, thousands of people took to the streets,” said those on Navalny’s staff—but they didn’t manage to fully hide their disappointment.
In many of the cities, the “demonstrations” were nothing more than small gatherings, and in places like Vladivostok, where on previous occasions the protesters numbered in the thousands, only a few hundred people rallied on Sunday. In Moscow, where Navalny was taken to the police headquarters before he could reach his gathered supporters in Pushkin Square, there were only a thousand people present. At some point a group of neo-fascists also showed up, hooded and waving black flags with the Celtic cross that proclaimed “Only Russia and nothing more,” which foreign journalists took great pains to avoid taking photos of. It seemed rather disturbing that none of those present had any objections to the neo-fascists, as the demonstration was, ostensibly, for democracy.