Navalny Supporters to Rally in Courtyards

MOSCOW (AP) -
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, inside a defendant dock during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, February 2. (Simonovsky District Court/Handout)

A top ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has announced a new anti-government protest, urging residents of big cities to briefly gather in residential courtyards on Sunday evening with their cellphone flashlights on.

Navalny strategist Leonid Volkov said the protest will start at 8 p.m. and last 15 minutes. The new rally format — similar to the tactics opposition supporters employed during protests in the neighboring Belarus — could prevent Russian riot police from interfering and allow anyone to participate, Volkov wrote Tuesday on social media.

“You will raise your phone flashlights — and someone, maybe, will bring candles — and form a heart shape with them … You will take a picture of it from above … . Let’s have social media feeds filled with thousands of shining hearts from dozens of Russian cities,” Volkov wrote. “No OMON (riot police), no fear.”

In the wake of the heavy police crackdown, Volkov said that protests should pause until spring, as trying to maintain rallies every weekend would only lead to many more arrests.

However, on Tuesday he cited the need to “adopt something that is stronger than fear” of repressions and to hold a demonstration that police wouldn’t be able to derail.

“We have already become the majority, but Putin divides us by (riot police) cordons so that we can’t see each other and see how many of us there are. We need to find a way to overcome that,” Volkov wrote.

Navalny’s arrest and jailing heightened tensions between Russia and the European Union. European leaders demanded the release of the opposition leader, and several European nations suggested imposing additional sanctions on Moscow.

The Kremlin has said it won’t listen to Western criticism of Navalny’s sentencing and police action against his supporters.