Russia Update: Opposition Leader Alexey Navalny, 250 Supporters Arrested at Manezhnaya Protest

December 30, 2014
Alexey Navalny, given a 3.5 year suspended sentence December 30, 2014, says goodbye to his brother, Oleg, who was given an actual sentence of 3.5 years in labor colony. Photo by Yevgeny Feldman/Novaya Gazeta.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here, and see also our Russia This Week story The Guild War – How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists? and special features ‘Managed Spring’: How Moscow Parted Easily with the ‘Novorossiya’ Leaders, Putin ‘The Imperialist’ A Runner-Up For Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ and It’s Not Just Oil and Sanctions Killing Russia’s Economy, It’s Putin.

The verdict in the trial of opposition leader Alexey Navalny is expected to be read today in a Moscow court, and supporters are planning to protest his sentence on Manezh Square.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.


Activists Occupy Giant Christmas Ornament on Manezhnaya Square, 20 Arrested

Remember the huge, glowing Christmas tree ornamant on Manezhnaya Square that was in many of the photographs of yesterday’s demonstration?


Early this morning some activists decided to occupy it, Mediazona reports (translation by The Interpreter):

Early Wednesday morning in the huge Christmas tree globe on Manezhnaya Square, more than 20 activists were detained who had not left the square after the action against the sentence of Oleg and Alexey Navalny was over. All night they continued to protest inside the globe, although in the morning, they were nevertheless detained by the OMON [riot police]. The activists were taken to the Luzhniki police precinct, says Mariya Alekhina, who was detained along with them, told Mediazona.

Alekhina is a member of the punk group Pussy Riot.

About 8:00 am police entered our globe from both sides, they took all our ID, and then literally carried out everyone who was inside in their arms, says Alyokhina.

Translation: The most honest panorama of the Kremlin.

The view is through the barred window of a police van.

Others arrested along with Alyokhina include Arseny Bobrovsky, who is famous as the blogger KermlinRussia, as well as Mariya Baronova, Polina Nemirovskaya, German Petukhov, Yulian Shilling, Dmitry Serbin, Sergei Krashevich, Nikolai Kasyan, Galina Borzunova, Nina Voskresenskaya and others, OVDInfo reports.

Nemirovskaya says the detainees were taken in two police vans to Luzhniki Precinct and are now being booked.


Translation: Nemirovskaya wrapped in a sleeping bag talking with OMON.

Translation: We’re waiting for you in the globe. With @KermlinRussia.


We are in the Globe.
As Long as Navalny’s Brother is in Prison

At Least 250 People Arrested on Manezhnaya Square in Protest About Navalny Sentencing

OVDInfo, the police monitoring group, reports that they have a list of names of at least 250 people arrested tonight on Manezhnaya Square.

The organization has been consistently reliable in recent years in reporting arrests of protesters of all kinds as well as incidents of police brutality.

The list starts with Alexey Navalny, who was detained near Manezhnaya Square with several reporters and then put back under house arrest, under guard by two policeman.


Then it proceeds in groups of police vans, which hold 22 people each, and goes precinct by precinct.

The list contains some “frequent fliers” like Grigory Saksonov, who has been detained multiple times in recent months for his anti-Putin protests as well as first-time detainees.

As we reported, photojournalist Mitya Aleshkovsky is among the detainees.

OVDInfo has the name of one Turkish citizen, who name is transliterated from Russian as Joshkun Alan who was apparently walking near the area, unrelated to the protest and got caught in the police sweeps.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

‘No to Maidan” Lighting at Manezhnaya Square; Protesters Hang Campaign Posters at Yves Rocher Store

Russian authorities went to a certain amount of effort to disrupt the a protest in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, handed a suspended sentence of 3.5 years today — a demonstration that included a number of other, broader issues, from “No to War in Ukraine” to “Freedom for Russia” in general, as the protesters chanted.

But they must have had a certain amount of intelligence about opposition plans, because they deployed only a few hundred riot police and did not bring in the army — as a number of Twitter bloggers claimed before the event, even posting pictures of army trucks (these could not be confirmed as from today or even in Moscow).

Even so, measures were taken to deter participation.

First, the Russian censor blocked the Facebook event page created by Leonid Volkov, by getting Facebook to block the view of it for those inside Russia. Supporters simply made other pages which Facebook then didn’t block, and more than 18,000 people said they were coming to the demonstration.

Yet that was merely a show of support, including from many in the Russian diaspora abroad, as the actual numbers later revealed. The figure of those who said “maybe” they would attend — more than 3,000 — more accurately reflected the number of people actually estimated to be on the square at one time or another during the more than hour long action.

And that figure included several thousand Navalny supporters but many hundreds of people protesting against Navalny and the opposition, including Cossacks wearing St. George’s ribbons adopted by nationalist movements — who were among those arrested.

Police blocked off at least three entrance to Manezh Square, but left at least two open, but soon began arresting people and pushing them away, which forced some to give up and go home.

While police were carefully controlling movements of both pro- and anti-Navalny protesters, even so, during the protest, someone was able to gain access to the building across from the Hotel Ritz and use equipment to light up the wall across the square with neon green letters saying “No to Maidan in Moscow,” referencing the name of the protest movement in Ukraine. That seemed something likely to be possible only with the consent if not enabling by the authorities — it was similar to the racist anti-Obama lighting on the US Embassy earlier this year staged by a mysterious “art group”.


Translation: Opposite the Ritz the saying “No to Maidan in Moscow is projected. To be sure, there isn’t a whiff of Maidan here.

Leonid Volkov, organizer of the assembly, told reporters that he hadn’t planned any Maidan, and had no intention of staying overnight or attempting to camp out on the square. The purpose was to come and protest the sentencing of Navalny and his brother, Oleg, who is not part of the opposition but was punished for association with Alexey, and given 3.5 years of labor colony. The sentence is currently being appealed and he is in a jail cell in Moscow.

Finally, police moved in quickly to arrest more than 100 demonstrators who are now either sitting in police vans or police precincts in Moscow awaiting to hear whether they will be released or handed 5-15 days in jail. So far, protesters have been released or given only fines today.

After the rally, Navalny protesters found one of the well-lit Yves Rocher stores
in Moscow and plastered it with campaign material from Navalny’s run for
mayor last year, where he gathered about 30% of the votes. As the numbers
at the demonstration indicate, those figures may have not been so much
about him as a rejection of Sergei Sobyanin, the incumbent from
United Russia, who is close to Putin.

Translation: Do they still continue to trade principles for profit?!

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Protesters Dispersing As They’re Forced Into The Metro
The police kettle forces most of the protesters into the metro, which effectively forced them out of the square.

The live feeds now show almost no one in the square except police and journalists, while a drone in one of them took video of the crowds leaving the square.

It seems that this protest is essentially over.

— James Miller

Dozens Arrested at Manezhnaya Square, Including Turkish, German Citizens; Navalny Back Under House Arrest

There are reports of as many as 100 people detained, but these are not confirmed yet. The police monitoring group OVDInfo is reporting on dozens of cases.

Alexey Navalny is now confirmed as under house arrest at his home, and police are not letting him leave his home, says OVDInfo.

Translation: Ekho Moskvy correspondent: there are two policeman on the stairway at Navalny’s apartment now.

Turkish and German citizens
are among the people detained on Manezhnaya Square this evening during a
protest in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Alexey was
handed a suspended sentence of 3.5 years of prison this morning, even as
his brother Oleg was given 3.5 years in a labor colony in a case
related to Yves Rocher East widely believed to be fabricatged.

Mitya Aleshkovsky, a photojournalist who was himself arrested and
is still phoning and tweeting from a police van says he saw the Turkish
and German citizens himself being taken to the Arbat Police Precinct.

Translation: The cops are shouting: are there any citizens of Ukraine? In reply, the whole police van is laughing.

Oleg Shtotsky and Pavel Sysoyev were detained near Manezhnaya for smoking, although they said they had not even managed to light a cigarette.

Grigory Saksonov and Vladimir Gladyshev, two protesters who were arrested outside the courtroom this morning were fined 500 rubles (US $9) and released.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Several Hundred Protesters Remain in Manezhnaya Square Area; Police Pushing Out

About 200 protesters remain on the streets beside Manezhnaya Square, still holding up signs in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

And they are being pushed away from the square by several hundred riot police, who are also shouting into megaphones, urging them to leave the area, and “think of the consequences” if they stay.

The area around the New Year’s bazaar is encircled by police, and police are all up and down the nearby streets.




Navalny supporters remain holding up the circles with his name which were passed out during his election campaign last year.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Rally Broken Apart As Riot Police Kettle Remaining Protesters

The protests are growing thinner as the riot police push the crowd out of the square, using a tactic called “kettling” which divides up crowds, pushing some protesters away while cornering others for arrest. As you can see from some of the pictures from this live stream, the front of the protest now has more police than protesters:


Another feed shows the remaining crowd being pushed out of the square by police who have linked arms. These police are propping up barricades which now contain a small portion of the crowd:



— James Miller

Riot Police Move Into Crowd, More Protesters and Journalists Arrested
The scene in Moscow is increasingly chaotic as riot police are moving against the crowd:
More journalists are among those who have been arrested:


— James Miller

Riot Police Pushing Demonstrators Off Manezhnaya Square

OMON riot police have formed two rows and linked arms to push demonstrators off Manezhnaya Square.


Some people are caught inside the rows of police.




Live feed reporters say Manezhnaya Square is now emptied of people as police have pushed demonstrators away, arresting some and letting others go to the metro.

Photojournalist Mitya Aleshkovsky is still in a police van being taken to the police station.

Translation: We’re sitting in a police van without light or heat at the Arbat Police Precinct.

Reporters estimate that approximately several thousand people were on
the square, some Navalny supporters, some pro-government
ultranationalists opposing the opposition.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Wall Street Journal Reporter Arrested At Rally
A Wall Street Journal reporter has joined the ranks of those arrested:
OVD Info now reports that at least 171 people have now been arrested.

The live video feeds are becoming chaotic as more riot police wade into the crowds:


— James Miller

Ultranationalists on Manezhnaya Square; Fight Breaks Out, One Injury

A fight has broken out on Manezhnaya Square as provocateurs have arrived to disrupt a protest in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Police have not been interfering, but continue to shout “Respected Citizens! We urge you to leave the square and not to block traffic.”


People continue to shout “Gopotnya will not pass!” using the term for the thugs used by the police to break up rallies, similar to Ukrainian titushki.

They continue to take pictures of the provocateurs. One of them has punched a protester in the face, and his cheek is cut and he is holding a napkin on his face.


Supporters of NOD, the ultranationalist National Liberation Movement, have arrived and are unfurling banners and shouting “Yankee, go home!” “No to Maidan in Moscow!.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian ‘Titushki’ Arrive to Disrupt Protest on Manezhnaya
Translation: Titushki

Translation: Oh, the titushki Putlyushki have begun to show: “You don’t like Russia, go to the USA.”

Some of the thugs can be seen wearing armbands so they can identify each other in the crowd.

Translation: at the Moscow Maidan, things are jumping! The titushki are streaming in. The police are bellowing.

Translation: At Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, activists are chanting “Putin Khuilo” [Putin is a dickhead] and the “titushki” are arriving.

Translation: Titushki?

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

European Union Condemns ‘Politically Motivated’ Sentence Against Navalny Brothers

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has released a statement today condemning the verdict against the Navalny brothers and calling for “restraint.”

The guilty verdict delivered today, Tuesday 30 December, by the Zamoskvoretsky Court against Alexey Navalny and his brother Oleg Navalny appears to be politically motivated.

The charges against them have not been substantiated during the trial. With the exception of a few selected representatives of the media, no public and international observers were allowed into the court building for the reading of the verdict.

The EU stresses the importance of judicial decisions to be free from political interference, independent, and in full compliance with the rule of law.

In anticipation of announced public actions tonight in Moscow, the EU expects that all parties concerned will show restraint.”

A spokesperson for the US Department of State also said that today’s  developments in Moscow “appear to be the most recent example of the Russian government’s growing crackdown on independent voices.”

James Miller

Provocateurs Arrive on Manezhnaya; Protesters Photograph Them

People are gathering now around a group of thugs who appear to have arrived to provoke demonstrators.

The crowd is taking pictures of the provocateurs.


They are chanting, “One for All and All for One!” and “Freedom for Russia!” and “No to Gopotnya!”

Gopniki or Gopotnya are people who work for the secret police and come to demonstrators to incite violence. These are the Russian equivalent of the titushki in Ukraine.

On the live feed from TsarGrad TV, we can see numerous camera flashes going off as people photograph the thugs, to make them have a sense they will be reported to media and police.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Reporter Aleshkovsky Arrested, Protests Continue

Photojournalist Mitya Aleshkovsky has been arrested. Poet Dmitry
Bykov was detained, but after he showed some press ID from Ekho Moskvy,
he was let go.

A group of Cossacks who came to demonstrate against Navalny have also been arrested.

Access to Manezhnaya Square remains open and people are continuing to arrive.

Maria Gaidar reports that the metro stop is now closed, however, even for people with children.

Translation: It’s dark in the police van.

Aleshkovsky re-tweeted this tweet:

Translation: How to emigrate to Ukraine?

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

At Least 22 arrested on Manezhnaya Square, OVD Info Reports

Russian police watchdog OVD Info reports that at least 22 people have been arrested on Manezhnaya square so far. Latvian-based Russian news site links to tweets that say that at least 40 people have been arrested.

Live broadcasts from the pro-Navalny demonstration show continued
arrests. The police continue to ask people to leave the square,
reminding that their demonstration has not been sanctioned by the
executive branch of the Russian government.

Meanwhile, a live video feed showed a fight breaking out between pro-Navalny protesters and
pro-government “Cossacks,” in which a group of protesters ripped a hat
off the head of one of the “Cossacks.”

hez2SAodwsG0W7im4EiE-Q-article.jpgMaria Ionova-Gribina / Meduza

– Anton Melnikov

Protesters Continue, Chant ‘No to War in Ukraine’; Dozens of Arrests

Several hundred people remain demonstrating on Manezhnaya Square, but several dozen arrests have already been made and police vans continue to be filled.


Some of the slogans being chanted: “No to war in Ukraine!” and “Ukrainians and Russians Brothers Forever.”

Afghan veterans are also on the square demonstrating and chanting that the Navalny demonstrators are “paid for.”

Translation: Well, there’s a lot of us here. Bring some thermoses or something.

Translation: Malaya Sadovaya right now.

Malaya Sadovaya is a pedestrian street in St. Petersburg where there is also a demonstration to protest the Navalnys’ sentencing today.

There are conflicting reports about Alexey Navalny’s status — some say he is still at a police precinct, others say he has been brought home.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Protests Continuing, Arrests Continue To Increase

We’re watching the protests in Moscow closely, and so far the crowds have remained relatively small from what we can tell — far smaller than the expected attendance for the original rally which was planned on January 15. The government’s decision to push up the date of the verdict by more than two weeks, and the mass show of force displayed by Moscow’s police, may have deterred many protesters.

Here is a picture from one of the live streams, taken just minutes ago:


Still, many have braved the police to come out, and those who have are chanting interesting slogans. Large-scale arrests are now reported:

— James Miller

Demonstrators Continue Despite Dozens of Arrests

Live feed reporter says there are an estimated several hundred supporters on Manezhnaya Square still demonstrating for Navalny, although arrests have begun — and it seems police are determined to take everyone on the square.

Some supporters are holding up cardboard circles with Navalny’s pictures, which were passed out at the time Navalny ran for mayor last year, attracting more than 600,000 votes.


Those arrested first were protesters who attempted to paste up posters with vulgar anti-Putin slogans on the walls of the State Duma.

Although 18,000 are now showing as “attending” this action, and 3,100 “may” attend, the reality is no more than 500 appear to be on the square — once again indicating the ratio to be expected from Facebook posts. This ratio has steadily widened from “planned” to “actual” since 2011, when the numbers matched closer  — when 30,000 said they were coming to Bolotnaya Square, they did. Today, they don’t, scared off by police and arrests, including of Navalny himself.

Reporters say not as many arrests has had been expected are taking place — about two dozen so far — but then suddenly police began grabbing everyone in sight.

OVDinfo, the police monitoring group says “the first police van is full” — it holds 22 people.

But more are now being taken and 3 buses are already full at this point.


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Dec 30, 2014 13:43 (GMT)

Arrests Begin on Manezhnaya Square
Leonid Volkov says he is not calling off the demonstration despite arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Translation: Alexey was detained at the top of Tverskaya. The demonstration on Manezhka of course is not cancelled.

Ekho Moskvy reporter Tatyana Felgenauer says that as she was trying to get an interview with Navalny, police swooped down on him and also grabbed her iPhone and have not returned it to her.

But police have already begun arresting people — several already detained by police, according to the live feed reporter.


Police are saying that any gathering of more than three people is an “unauthorized rally” and starting to grab people and shout that people should clear the area.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Navalny Arrested on Manezhnaya Square

Navalny was arrested right in front of the National Hotel, says OVDinfo.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

A Chant We’ve Heard Before…


— James Miller

About 500 Demonstrate for Navalny on Manezhnaya Square

The live feed reporter is estimating perhaps 500 Navalny supporters have begun chanting “Navalny, Navalny!” at this time and also “Down with Putin!”.

He says there are also some 100 or so anti-Navalny protesters on the square who refuse to talk to reporters but have red flags and St. George ribbons.


The Facebook page in support of Navalny has more than 15,000 pledging to come. But some of these are overseas or in other Russian towns and are just expressing moral support.

TsarGrad TV’s live feed also shows several hundred people.


Protester Reportedly Arrested At Rally As Crowd Breaks Into Chant
Ilya Mouzykantski reports that some people have been detained, and journalists are, perhaps unwittingly, forming a barrier between police and the crowds, perhaps due to the fact that many journalists were in the square before the protesters.
Large Police Presence, Small But Growing Number of Protesters

Protesters are starting to show up, but there is an overwhelming wall of
police present in the square at the moment. Here is a screen capture
from one of the livefeeds we posted below:


We’re not sure how accurate that number is, but we’ll keep monitoring.


— James Miller

Navalny Still Free, Counter-Demonstration Gathering on Manezhnaya Square

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny has headed to the square, and so far reports of his arrest appear to be false as he has been photographed on the square just now.

But meanwhile, a counter-demonstration is getting underway.

Translation: Yes, house arrest, but today I really want to be with you. Therefore I’m going. #Manezhka

Translation: Look who we met.

A live feed reporter has just shown a number of Afghan veterans with red flags and St. George ribbons, which are a sign of Russian nationalist and pro-Kremlin groups.


 — Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Live Feeds from Manezhnaya Square

Here are some live feeds from Manezhnaya Square, site of a planned opposition rally in about half an hour. The square’s entrances have been blocked off to the northwest and northeast but entrances to the south appear to be still open.

TsarGrad TV:

See also, the city web cam.


And here’s another live feed from Open Russia:

Dec 30, 2014 20:49 (GMT)

Note: Open Russia is a project of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The Interpreter is a project of Institute for Modern Russia, which is financed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s son, Pavel Khodorkovsky.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick


Navalny Plans to Attend Rally on Manezhnaya; Square Closing Off

More entrances to Manezhnaya Square closed off now:


Translation: Manezhnaya is almost completely closed, Revolution Square partly, at the State Duma, but apparently not at the intersection of Tverskaya and Mokhovaya, but I’m not sure.

Translation: It’s still open from the side of Alexandrovsky Garden, but they may close it. Manezhnaya Square in Moscow.

Reporter Briefly Detained on Manezhnaya Square; Buses Commandeered to Hold Future Protesters

A reporter covering Manezhnaya Square less than an hour before a planned opposition rally was detained and had his passport taken.

Ilya Mouzykantskii, a freelance journalist and contributor to The New York Times, said police were commandeering buses to hold future detainees.

Two Sides of Manezhnaya Square Blocked Off, Barriers Placed, People Still Entering

Manezhnaya Square is in the center of Moscow to the northwest of the Kremlin and has traditionally been chosen for demonstrations because it is easier to gain entrance to than Red Square which is more heavily guarded. It is the site of a large exhibition hall called the Manezh where a show of art works on cats is on display today.

Here is Manezhnaya Square on Google Maps, with two of the entrances marked which are already blocked off by police, according to Govorit Moskva and other media on the scene.

As of the last half hour, the other entrances are still open, but police are putting up barricades throughout the area.


Translation: for now, Manezhnaya is open for access, but barriers are being placed on it. The colonels are bustling about.

Heavy Police Presence, Bazaars Closed on Manezh Square

Translation: The New Year’s bazaars have been closed on Manezhnaya Square. Soon they will close the square itself.

Translation: Right now on Manezhnaya Square. has collected a number of tweets of people who have seen the police presence building on the square.

Translation: The steps are blocked off.

Translation: Manezh now. It is being closed off gradually.

Translation: Interior Ministry troops are the most disciplined, already in place.

Translation: Soldiers from the Interior Ministry are lining up on Revolution Square now.
Translation: Entrance to Manezhnaya from the side of Revolution Square is closed. Exits from the crossing at Okhotny Ryad also.
Are The Vast Majority Of The Kremlin’s Twitter Followers Fake?
RFE/REL’s Robert Coalson tweets a simply-incredible statistic — that according to, the vast majority of the followers of the Kremlin’s main Twitter account are fake:

Coalson also tweeted the criteria uses to determine if an account is fake:

> The account has a following : followers ratio of 50:1 or more. This means the profile is following 50 accounts while only being followed by one

>More than 30% of all tweets use spam phrases, such as “diet,” “make money,” and “work from home”

>The same tweets are repeated more than three times, even when posted to different accounts

>More than 90% of the account’s tweets are retweets

>More than 90% of the account’s tweets are links

>The account has never tweeted

>The account is more than two months old and still has a default profile image

>The user didn’t fill in neither bio nor location and, at the same time, is following more than 100 accounts

Each of these criteria have a given number of points valuation and once an account exceeds a certain number of points, we identify him as suspicious. Then, if the account isn’t identified as suspicious, we test it according to the following two rules to see if it’s not inactive:

> The account has posted less than 3 tweets

>The last tweet is more than 90 days old

While most Twitter accounts have some fake followers, and fake followers are nearly impossible to avoid if you have more than, say, a thousand or so Twitter followers, it’s highly unusual for an account to have this many. Our Twitter account has followers which are 15% suspicious, 2% inactive, and 83% good. Coalson has similar results:

By comparison, however, @BarackObama, the official Twitter account for the President of the United States which has more than 52 million followers, has a very similar result: 84% suspicious, 4% inactive, and 12% good.The entertainer Katy Perry, whom we’re sad to report has more Twitter followers than anyone else, has more than 62 million followers, but it seems only 11% are good. @CNNbrk, the most-followed news account, only has 12% “good” followers.

But @KremlinRussia has far fewer followers than this — over 1.7 million. For a better comparison, @GMA (Good Morning America), with 2.5 million followers, has a much better result: 32% suspicious, 9% inactive, 59% good. Sushama Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, has 2 million followers, 70% of which are suspicious, 13% inactive, and 17% good.  Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates @ABZayed has nearly 1.5 million followers, 66% suspicious, 16% inactive, 18% good. The Kremlin is fairing a little worse than these, and the patterns are interesting and varied, so it’s hard to say definitively that there is foul play here (here’s a list of other top diplomats on global leads on Twitter).

The moral of this story — the Internet, and Twitter in particular, is simply full of fake accounts and bots. While we have experienced first hand the reality of pro-Kremlin Twitter bot campaigns, it’s not clear that the Kremlin’s Twitter account has any more bot followers than any other prominent account of this nature.

This also means, however, that the real-life Twitter influence of some of the platform’s giants is significantly inflated by fake followers. So fear not, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber may not really be the most influential people in the world…

… yet.

James Miller

Why Was The Verdict Moved Forward? Supposedly Because The Verdict Was Ready
Security Forces Begin Preparations On Manezhnaya Square

Security forces have begun arriving at  Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow, where a large protest rally had been planned to coincide with the original date of the Navalny brothers’ sentencing on January 15.

Translation: Lol
Translation: Two military vehicles. Two more buses. Ambulance. #Manezhka

Translation: Look some action. The police are building #Manezhka

— Pierre Vaux

Navalny Defence Lawyer Kobzev On Verdict And Detention

Novaya Gazeta reports that Vadim Kobzev, lawyer for both Alexey and Oleg Navalny, has said that the sentence announced today has likely been rushed out without being fully notated (translated by The Interpreter):

“I don’t think that the verdict has been written up yet! Simply taking on board the fact that normally, only the resolution part can be read out. I think that the pile of papers in the judge’s hands may well have been blank.”

Kobzev explained that the defence team will only receive a full copy of the the verdict on January 12. Until then, his team cannot formulate a proper response to the court.

“Throughout the case, the prosecution has asserted that the contracts [with Yves Rocher] were not fulfilled, but now it emerges that they were fulfilled after all. How they are justifying this – we do not understand. It will be very interesting to see how the prosecution’s story is conveyed, because, at the moment, we have to write that both that the contracts were, and were not fulfilled.”

Kobzev said that, under Article 108 of the Russian Criminal Procedural code, it was illegal for the Navalny brothers to be held under guard in the courtroom. 

Kobzev said:

“A couple of years ago a clause was introduced to Article 108 that if a fraud was committed in the sphere of economic activity, then the measure of custodial remand cannot be taken. And while tbe sentence has not yet come into force, we are, in legal terms, talking about pre-trial detention. The same applies to the house-arrest maintained on Navalny senior up to the appeal.”

The lawyer said that the defence team had already filed an appeal against the custodial remand imposed on the Navalny brothers. 

— Pierre Vaux

Navalny Supporter Arrested at Court House

Activist Grigory Saksonov was detained at the Zamoskvoretsky Court building today during the reading of the sentence of the Navalny brothers. Police arrested him for shouting, “Putin will die!”, according to, a police monitoring group.

Saksonov was detained earlier this month on December 8, when he came to a protest of car drivers complaining about lack of free parking in Moscow. He was carrying a poster with the phrase “Putin – 666” (i.e., the “number of the beast“), and this was deemed by police to be “inconsistent with the theme of the rally.”

Officers of the Anti-Extremism Center approached him, then about 10 policemen swooped down on him. He was charged with “insubordination to the lawful demands of police officers” and ordered to appear in court the next day.

Saksonov was also detained on November 22 on Manezh Square for conducting a lone picket and “raising his voice.”

Under Russian law, a picketer cannot use loud-speakers, but nothing is said about chanting slogans loudly.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Reaction to Navalny Brothers’ Sentencing

The Russian opposition joined in expressing dismay about the sentencing of anti-corruption advocate Alexey Navalny, saying the sentencing of his brother, Oleg, who has not been involved in opposition activity, was a way of taking a hostage to chill Alexey’s own activity.

Both brothers were widely believed to be innocent because the charges stemmed from a mail-order contract with a French cosmetics company, Yves Rocher East, which had no complaints against the brothers.

Translation: Out of all the possible forms of sentences, today was the most foul.

Boris Nemtsov former first vice premier:

Alexey was given 3.5 years suspended. But Oleg is jailed for 3.5 years and they took him under guard from the courtroom. That is, Oleg was taken as a hostage, and Navalny will be discredited, that because of him, innocent people are jailed.

The fact that the case was fabricated and both had to plead not guilty somehow receded into the background.

So now the propaganda will say that Alexey is a plant, and people are jailed because of him for no reason.

What does this depravity have to to with justice, tell me?

Masha Gessen, Russian writer forced to leave her homeland due to anti-gay laws:

Some one must have sat, thought, and calculated this. So, in order that the people not rise up too much, Navalny has to be given a suspended sentence (and are there such things as two suspended sentences at once? I mean, legally). And in order for Navalny not to misbehave too much, they had to give his brother a real sentence. Have I understood it correctly?

Yevgeniya Albats, editor of New Times, who was herself stopped while driving on December 29 and ordered to appear in court the next day. She already had a ticket to leave the country to celebrate Near Year’s Eve, and plans to return.

I very much hope that the authorities tomorrow will not make any extreme decisions. I already said: having jailed Navalny, he will not be forced to be silent. He will come out of prison as the president of Russia. But by sending Alyosha (Navalny) behind bars, the Kremlin will finally place itself in dependence on Lubyanka [the Federal Security Service] and will roll the bloody wheel. The elites must understand clearly: by jailing Navalny, Lubyanka will open the hunting season against the wealthy and the successful above all. God save us!

Translation: “This government tortures the relatives of its opponents. I urge everyone to come out on the street today.

Lawyer Mark Feygin, attorney for Nadiya Savchenko, the imprisoned Ukrainian pilot accused of murder of Russian journalists in a case widely believed to be fabricated:

Translation: Such a sentence for the Navalny brothers, with the imposition of the operative part and a move of the date, leaves no questions about the independence of the Russian judiciary.

Anna Veduta, former spokesperson for Navalny:

Translation: Trust me, they couldn’t have done anything more terrible for Alexey @navalny. In his final speech, he spoke of the effectiveness of taking hostages. They heard him.

Translation: Well @Anna_Veduta How native you are

Translation: It’s some kind of Game of Thrones, only a f**ked-up one.

A top Kremlin propagandist ran a Twitter poll among his many followers:

Translation: Sentence for Navalny? If too harsh – favorite. If too soft — re-tweet.

As of December 31 at 12:00 am it had 346 re-tweets and 20 favorites.

Translation: Peskov [presidential spokesman]: Putin will not make a separate statement on the sentence of opposition member Alexey and his brother Oleg Navalny.

Translation: Meet Judge Yelena Korobchenko, who today was entrusted with reading the shameful sentence to the Navalnys.

Translation: Human rights activist Zoya Svetova: “The former head of Yves Rocher East did not appear in court — this is a stain on all French business.”

Translation: Pyotr Ofitserov, suspect in the Kirovles Case: “The trial indicates: Alexey must calm down, or otherwise his whole family will be jailed.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Navalny to Judge Re: Brother’s Sentence: ‘Is This How You are Punishing Me?’

Alexey Navalny received a suspended sentence today of 3.5 years in a case involving the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher East, plus a 500,000 ruble fine (US $8,634) and will remain under house arrest pending appeal — and to serve out the remainder of a previous sentence on charges related to his lumber company Kirovoles.

But his brother Oleg, who was the manager of the mail-order business, was given a sentence of 3.5 years in a labor colony — and not suspended.

On the live feed of supporters outside the courtroom, a correspondent for leaving the area quoted Alexey Navalny’s words to the judge: “Beasts! Is this how you are punishing me?” — regarding his brother receiving an actual sentence while he receives a suspended one.

He believes his brother is essentially being taken as a hostage by the state for his opposition activities. His brother was not involved in the opposition.

Translation: Oleg Navalny: “I experience contempt toward them — here’s why, because how can they put in jail an innocent man”?

Not many supporters came to the court house, which was barricaded, and only press was admitted.

Translation: Court is behind five fences.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

How Many Supporters Does Alexey Navalny Have? Hypothetically More Than Half a Million

Readers of our coverage of the Moscow elections in September, 2013, might remember that the race was full of surprises. Alexy Navalny was a dark horse candidate, and many experts were predicting that he would only receive 10 or 15 percent of the vote against Putin-favorite and incumbent mayor Sergey Sobyanin. The election also took place immediately after Alexey Navalny concluded another trial where he was found guilty but his sentence was commuted.

Navalny was allowed to run for mayor, and despite the fact that there were significant discrepancies and violations which should have favored Sobyanin, Navalny received 27.24% of the vote, beating almost all expectations.

In other words, despite the corruption allegations, Navalny has a lot of supporters in Moscow. In fact, he received 632,697 votes according to the official election results alone.

The Interpreter’s Catherine A. Fitzpatrick notes that protests outside courtrooms are typically small, and the main pro-Navalny protest is scheduled to be held in Manezh Square tonight. So far, 15,000 people have signed up to attend. Regardless of how many actually show up, many more Muscovites will be watching at home and silently supporting Navalny.

James Miller
Protests Planned, But Will The Protesters Show?
So far it’s pretty quiet outside the courtroom, with a small group of people gathered who shouted protest slogans after the guilty verdict was read. However, large protests are scheduled for later. Will the crowd show up?


— James Miller

Navalny To Remain Under House Arrest Pending Appeal

Commentators in Moscow are trying to determine if Alexey Navalny will have to remain under house arrest with the suspended sentence of 3.5 years he was just handed this morning.

His brother Oleg has already been taken under custody from the courtroom and will be in detention pending appeal.

There’s some confusion over the legal technicalities regarding Navalny’s situation.

His lawyer, Olga Romanova says he will have to remain under house arrest from his previous case — the lumber embezzlement case — for which he has one year left to serve. And while his sentence is appealed, evidently he will have to stay under house arrest. He has been given a suspended sentence of 3.5 years, and a 3 year probationary period.

Meanwhile, his brother will have to serve hard time — 3.5 years prison colony, not suspended.

Andrei Kozenko, the correspondent for legal affairs exiting the courtroom gave an interview to the narrator at the live feed and said Navalny’s house arrest would be kept in force at least for 10 days after the sentence was read — or before his appeal, it was not clear which term would supercede the other. In any event, his house arrest had already been  extended until February 16, 2015 previously, under the theory that it would take that long to prepare the sentence in his current case.

(Kozenko’s live reporting on the trial can be seen here in Russian.)

Clearly the authorities have sped up the process to prevent protests from gathering steam.

Navalny is also awaiting trial in yet another criminal case concerning charges of “art theft” over a sketch from a street artist which his colleague took to give him.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Alexey Navalny Handed Suspended Sentence of 3.5 Years; Brother Oleg Given 3.5 Years of Labor Colony

Those on the scene at the court hourse on the live feed are also saying that Alexey Navalny has received 3.5 years’ suspended sentence, and his brother, 3.5 years in labor colony — not suspended.

The probation period is 3 years.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Navalny Verdict Being Read in Court: Guilty
Translation: The reading of the sentence has begun.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Security Tight In Moscow Ahead of Navalny Verdict

Security around the courtroom that contains Alexey Navalny is tight. Only members of the press are being let through, everyone else has been pushed back 200 meters.

We’re watching a livefeed from outside the court house. The narrator says “there are more journalists here than activists.” As far as we can tell, there may be only a few dozen people outside the courtroom right now:

Dec 30, 2014 11:30 (GMT)

Security deployed near the courtroom:

Translation: There are a lot of soldiers. They can block all the squares.

Translation: There are police from the top of Tatarskaya Street with a cordon to keep people back, going almost to Sadovoye Ring Road.

Translation: There is a cordon at the Zamoskvoretsky Court and only the press is being allowed in for now.

— James Miller

Navalny Brothers Arrive at the Courtroom in Moscow; Two Supporters Arrested is live-blogging the trial of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Alexey Navalny has already arrived at the courtroom, where he first waited in line behind a TV1 camera crew.

Two of his supporters outside the court building have already been arrested, according to an Ekho Moskvy correspondent on the scene.

Alexey’s brother and co-defendant Oleg was detained himself on the way into the courthouse, evidently because he was wearing a balaclava due to the cold, says He was eventually released by police to go into the courtroom, when he explained that he was the defendant.

Navalny’s wife, Yuliya, is also at the sentencing.

Translation: Yulia.

A live feed from the court building can be viewed below:


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Leaks Show Russian Journalists Accept Made-to-Order Articles from the Kremlin, Publish Under Their Names

The Insider, a Russian online investigative site, published leaked e-mails and reports from the Kremlin yesterday December 29 from the hackers’ group Shaltai Boltai or “Anonymous International.”

As we reported earlier, they highlight materials that illustrated how the Russian Presidential Administration sought to frame opposition leader Alexey Navalny, awaiting the verdict in a trial.

But also among the documents are items that vividly illustrate how the Kremlin concocts stories for the media, and state journalists or pro-government reporters dutifully publish articles under their own names using these materials — often verbatim.

The relationship is so close between the Kremlin and media that little time elapses between preparation of propaganda and its dissemination by outlets like NTV, and there isn’t even any discussion about how the material should be presented. The Kremlin can also count on certain journalists simply to take what they send and publish it or to consult only the experts the Kremlin designates.

For example, on March 17, Prokopenko sent Izvestiya journalist Anastasiya Kashevarova a list of people who could comment on inclusion of Yelena Mizulina in the list of US sanctions regarding the annexation of Crimea. Mizulina is a conservative deputy from the party Just Russia associated with “family values” and anti-gay legislation. This list included only two names: Anatoly Kucherena, the lawyer of fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden. and Raisa Lukutseva, head of the Russian Red Cross.

On November 23, 2013, Prokopenko, evidently using a pseudonym, wrote to Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) about placement of an article on parliamentarian Oleg Shein with the note, “Good evening. We’re sending the text for MK. We plan to legalize one excerpt from it first in the blogosphere. Thanks.”

By “legalize,” they mean make it look as if the sentiment first came from a blogger, and then was picked up by media.

The article then appeared in MK three days later.

Prokopenko also wrote to Komsomolskaya Pravda, saying “Good evening. We’re sending the first text. Thanks.”

That piece appeared four days later.

One of the people exposed by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation is Igor Rudensky, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, who is a member of the Sosny (Pines) Cooperative, in which a number of prominent deputies and officials bought parcels of land at prices higher than their salaries, which weren’t in their income declarations. Among the leaked materials is a post Rudensky published on the site of Ekho Moskvy on November 30, 2013.

But the correspondence shows that the post was drafted by Prokopenko, and Rudensky only made a few insignificant corrections. The Insider writes that the email with the final text was sent directly not by Rudensky but by Prokopenko to Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy.

“Venediktov could not have but known from whom he received the text, although there are no indications of the Presidential Administration’s involvement in this material,” says The Insider.

Russian journalists call articles written to order for money or political gain dzhinsa (“blue jeans”) or senokos (“haying”).

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Hackers Release Kremlin Letters That Show Effort to Frame Navalny

Just in time for the reading of the verdict and sentence for opposition leader Alexey Navalny in Moscow this morning, a Russian hackers’ group has released some documents they claim are internal Kremlin correspondence about his case, The Insider reports.

The group known as Shaltai Boltai or “Anonymous International” released
letters from Timur Prokopenko, deputy director of the domestic policy
department of the presidential administration.

This office
appeared to be in charge of drafting the government’s rhetoric on the
various Navalny criminal cases, including the Yves Rocher East case, involving charges of
fraud in a mail-order deal, and also a case involving charges of “art
theft” over a street artist’s sketch.

Translation: Letters from the president’s administration: how they framed Navalny.

The cases are widely believed to be trumped up by the authorities in retaliation for Navalny’s exposure of corruption by top officials close to the Kremlin — and these leaks tend to reinforce that conviction.

The Insider notes that the same text found in the Kremlin official’s letter shows up on the posts of pro-Kremlin blogger and photographer Yevgeny Lavrov, who goes by the name “tesey” on LiveJournal. Then the same text is seen elsewhere on the Internet; Lavrov evidently wrote many posts “to order” about Navalny.

Prokopenko wrote a remarkable 24-page report on his activities around the subject of Navalny, providing screenshots and examples — there are numerous tweets from both opposition and pro-government bloggers. The report illustrates Prokopenko’s effort to try to find arguments against Navalny. He writes that the Navalny supporters are “hysterical” and says out of the more than 600,000 people who voted for Navalny, giving him 29% of the electorate in the Moscow mayoral election, only 1.5% of these people came to a rally to protest his arrests earlier this year.

When the American democracy promotion organization Freedom House — designated as a “pseudo-non-governmental organization” by the Kremlin — called for a re-count of the votes and a halt to the inauguration of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, the incumbent who was re-elected, this link was highlighted in red and Protopenko wrote “Navalny was obliged to mention Western liberals on the results of the election campaign since he had to at least earn the huge flow of money which went to him from abroad.”


The report shows some anti-Navalny videos on YouTube that apparently were recommended for use in counter-propaganda. One is by “Pyotr Gvozdev” who has only one upload on YouTube, although he got more than 128,000 views for this anti-Navalny piece. He explains why Navalny lost the elections, which he attributes to “fear-mongering,” “corruption” and “foreign financing.” Judging by the way Protopenko reports on this video and the number of its views, it seems to have been crafted by the government.

The documents also include a discussion of the “art theft” case where
Sergei Sotov, the artist says he doesn’t care if people take his
sketches from a fence where he displays them on the sidewalk. But later
he was coerced into giving testimony against Navalny.

points out that a video on this story made by Artur Omarov, an
activist in the Putin-created youth movement Nashi (Ours) lands in
Prokopenko’s email box on the 19th, and by the 20th, it’s already airing
on NTV.

Another item is an email from a LifeNews correspondent
Anastasiya Kashevarova to Prokopenko, dated March 16, 2014, with a
file labeled “Bad Apartment.” The file contains an unsigned form for a
deputy’s query — apparently the Kremlin hadn’t figured out yet which
deputy to have make this request — with a demand to find out whether the
apartment being rented by Navalny’s assistant was lawful. The Insider
notes that this letter is written entirely in the style of the Soviet
police informant.

In other words, things work exactly as long
suspected in the Kremlin — even more so. Cases are cooked up against
the opposition, and then obedient media and pro-government parliamentary figures and
social media stars help fulfill the state’s agenda.

is also well-known for a series of articles exposing Alexandrina Markvo,
the wife of Navalny’s executive director, Vladimir Ashkurov and
implying they had committed some crime in contracts they had with the
city of Moscow for a literary festival
. The couple were forced to flee from Russia.

figure targeted by the Kremlin is Ilya Ponomarev, the sole deputy who
voted against the annexation of the Crimea. Prokopenko wrote a memo with
accusations, using alleged intercepts of phone calls, in which
supposedly Ponomarev was found to pay for votes; rock musician
Sergei Troitsky had made this accusation against him when the two
competed in elections for mayor in Novosibirsk. Ponomarev denied the
charges, and he, too, was forced to flee abroad. Kashevarova took the materials from Prokopenko and dutifully wrote a hit job on Ponomarev.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick