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Navalny supporters hold Valentine's Day protests

February 14, 2021

Protesters across Russia tried a new tactic to show support for the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny without being arrested. People posted photos on social media with the hashtag #LoveIsStrongerThanFear in Russian.

Young supporters of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny shine phone flashlights
Navalny supporters stood outside for 15 minutes waving flashlights and lighting candlesImage: Yuri Maltsev/REUTERS

Supporters of the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalnyheld novel candle-lit minidemonstrations in residential courtyards across Russia on Sunday.

On Valentine's Day evening, people stood outside for 15 minutes. They used the flashlight function on their smartphones and arranged candles in the shape of a heart.

The action went ahead under the motto "Love is stronger than fear."

Organizers described it as a response to the "unprecedented wave of violence and repression" by security forces at past rallies in support of Navalny.

Navalny was arrested last month on his return from Germany. He was being treated there for poisoning with what many Western countries say was a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union.

The 44-year-old was jailed on February 2 for violating parole on what he said were trumped-up charges.

young supporters of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who was recently jailed for parole violations, use flashlights during a protest demonstration
The small gatherings are intended to avoid the mass arrests at banned larger protestsImage: Yuri Maltsev/REUTERS

Supporters of Navalny have attended mass demonstrations in large numbers across Russia in recent weeks.

However, the rallies have resulted in mass detentions of thousands.

Sunday's decentralized and particularly peaceful initiative is meant to make it difficult for the police to take action against it.

Russian law enforcement agencies warned on Thursday that people taking part in unsanctioned rallies could face criminal charges.


The Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by Navalny, retweeted tweets from people using the hashtag #LoveIsStrongerThanFear in Russian and English.

The hashtag was trending in fourth place on Russian Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny's close allies, who is now in Lithuania, wrote on Twitter telling people to share their stories of their flashlight demonstrations.

Navalny's team in Moscow tweeted an image of a separate action in support of Navalny's wife, Yulia, and female political prisoners.

Women formed a human chain on a pedestrian street in the capital, carrying hearts and roses.

DW's Emily Sherwin, who was at the scene, spoke with several participants in the protest, including Yulia Galyamina, an opposition politician and Moscow Duma deputy, who herself received a suspended sentence last year on charges — which many consider politically motivated — of breaking protest rules. 

"We are showing female solidarity and solidarity with women who are suffering political persecution. There are more than 100 of those women now and they all need our solidarity," she told DW. "I believe that protests like these which are peaceful — women with flowers, ribbons and hearts — I think that is more effective than aggression and violence. It allows for dialogue within society."

Another woman at the protest, who said she was a lawyer, said women had a special role to play in protests. 

"We need a women's protest because women are the creators of future life," she said. "I have two children. And I want them to live in a different country."  

Vladimir Putin responds

President Vladimir Putin suggested that the recent wave of protests across Russia had been stoked by his opponents abroad against the backdrop of the widespread "exhaustion, frustration and dissatisfaction" arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our opponents or potential opponents have always ... relied on very ambitious, power-hungry people and have always used them," the president said in an interview with Russian media conducted on Wednesday and broadcast Sunday by the public Rossiya 24.

tj, kmm/rc (dpa, Reuters)