The protests began in Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast, and spread Westwards across 85 cities across the country’s nine time zones. The ritual was familiar enough from the last major wave of protests in the summer of 2019 – several thousand banner-carrying protesters calling for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an overwhelming show of force by the police, baton charges, cracked heads, mass arrests. By the end of the day over 2000 protesters had been detained, forty policemen and thousands of protesters injured.
So Navalny got, in one sense, what he wanted. By voluntarily returning from Berlin, where he had been recovering from Novichok poisoning, Navalny has indeed triggered a wave of indignation and anger against the Kremlin. More, many protesters waved toilet brushes – an ironic reference to Navalny’s latest, boldest and most shocking anticorruption video yet. Entitled A Palace for Putin, Navalny details a billion-dollar mansion built for Putin on siphoned state money on the Black Sea coast compete with an underground hockey rink, wineries, a private casino and an 800-euro designer Italian toilet brush. The video, based on open sources detailed a series of shell companies, rental agreements and property purchases which show that Putin’s extended family, his mistresses and illegitimate daughter received payments from state-owned companies running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.