Alexei Navalny supporters gather for Valentine’s Day

Young dancers shine with their mobile phone lights in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia Navalnaya near Red Square in Moscow on Sunday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP


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Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Young dancers shine with their mobile phone lights in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia Navalnaya near Red Square in Moscow on Sunday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Following a breakdown of protests in Russia, allies urged Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to participate in a more subdued form of solidarity and defiance.

Supporters of Navalny gathered near their homes and in courtyards for Valentine’s Day guards, an act called “Love is stronger than fear” for the detained opposition leader. They were encouraged to gather outside for 15 minutes and post their participation on social media.

Scenes from the day showed people showing the lights on their phones and arranging lights in the hearts. Navalny’s Twitter account retweeted photos of followers gathered all over Moscow.

Other things photos on social media showed guard across Russia from the eastern Siberian city of Irkutsk to Yekaterinburg near the Ural Mountains and Novosibirsk in western Siberia, reports Reuters.

The guards were small and sporadic compared to the massive recent protests. It is also unclear how many people participated.

In other actions on Sunday, a few hundred women formed a human chain in Moscow in support of Navalny’s wife, Yulia, and other women affected by the crash. Another 100 formed a chain in Skt. Petersburg Agence France-Presse reports.

Russian authorities tried to quell the protests as officials went to Kremlin-backed television networks accusing Navalny’s allies of acting on NATO instructions. According to the Associated Press, state news agencies carried reports citing unnamed sources claiming that a terrorist group is training rebels for possible attacks in Russian cities “in places where mass rallies”.

Earlier, the Kremlin would avoid mentioning Navalny, and the protests he led were not covered by official media channels.

Navalny was arrested when he returned from Germany, where he recovered for several months after surviving a poisoning narrowly. Navalny and investigative journalists reported it agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service were responsible.

On February 2, he was convicted to two years and eight months in prison for violating the parole terms of a verdict in 2014. He also faces slander, which he has called politically motivated.

Protests over his detention have been going on for several weeks in the country, leading to a brutal attack that has included more than 10,000 arrests.

Russia has insisted that public events that are “without sanction” by the state are illegal and could increase the spread of coronavirus.

The protests and crashes have also increased the friction for Russia on the international stage.

Russia expelled recently three European diplomats after claiming to have participated in pro-Navalny demonstrations. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it wanted Russia cut ties with the European Union if the EU imposes financial sanctions on Navalny’s prison.

“We do not want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we must be ready for it. If you want peace, prepare for war,” Lavrov said in the interview, which was broadcast to a YouTube channel powered by Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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