Mobilization of support for political prisoners in Russia
The demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa are are part of a global mobilization, two years after the arrest of opponent Alexei Navalny in Russia.
Two years after the arrest of Russia's central opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, protesters gathered in Toronto and Ottawa on Saturday to show support for political prisoners in Russia.
On January 17, 2021, Alexei Navalny was poisoned and imprisoned by the Russian state. Today, we want to show our support for him and the other political prisoners, says Lola Popova, one of the organizers of the movement in Toronto, and member of the Russian Canadian Association.
In addition to raising awareness of the fate of political prisoners in Russia, the young woman wants to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and show opponents that they are not alone. In Russia, it is criminal to criticize the army, explains Lola Popova, adding that those who risk it are imprisoned. So we want to show our support for those who can't express themselves freely in Russia,” she continues.
“Even if we are far away, we support them. »
— Lola Popova, member of the Russian Canadian Association
Same story with Aleksei Volkov, another organizer of the demonstration.
< p class="e-p">The man, who arrived in Canada a year and a half ago, laments the lack of freedom in his country of origin. According to him, freedom of expression, demonstration and public activities does not exist in Russia, because everything that does not come from the government is sanctioned.
If I wore this flag in Russia, I would be immediately arrested, he says, referring to the blue and white flag he wears on his shoulders to symbolize his opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The blue and white flag carried by Aleksei Volkov symbolizes opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Aleksei Volkov recalls that repression in his country took hold with Vladimir Putin. In the 90s, Russia was much freer than today, he says, giving the example of the LGBTQ community who could express themselves freely in those years.< /p>
But today, the situation is terrifying, he judges, hoping that this nightmare will end.
For her part, Elena Pushkareva, one of the co-founders of Canada for the Free Russia, says it expects nothing from Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. We cannot influence the policy of our government, there is no civilized way like here in Canada, through elections, so we want to be seen and heard, she explains.
According to Ms. Pushkareva, after the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, many people who opposed the war were arrested and sentenced. Through this demonstration, she demands the release of all political prisoners in Russia who are tortured in prisons.
Elena Pushkareva, who left Russia for political reasons 10 years ago, recalls that after the start of the war there was a movement of political refugees who were forced to leave Russia. But we are not represented anywhere, she laments.
Pierre Jolicoeur, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and specialist in Russia, believes that this mobilization is good for the image of the Russian people, but for Vladimir Putin, it may have very little impact.
According to him, the opposition in Russia is muzzled and there are very few possibilities to express themselves against the political authorities and against the war in Ukraine.
“In Russia, we are not even allowed to use this word [war]. »
—Pierre Jolicoeur, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada
Mr. Jolicoeur adds that unless there is a reversal from within or a revolution, [he] finds it hard to see how Vladimir Poutine would listen to the voice of the foreigner who asks him to modify its approach to the conflict.
The Canadian government says it is working with [its] allies to give Ukraine the tools it needs to continue to fight and impose high costs on the Russian regime.
According to the Federal Foreign Minister's Office, Ottawa has imposed sanctions on more than 1,500 individuals and entities complicit in the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia, including Putin himself.
Impunity is not an option for Putin and his accomplices. We will hold accountable those who enable and commit these heinous crimes, wrote Foreign Affairs Ministry press secretary Adrien Blanchard.
The rallies in Toronto and Ottawa s& #x27;were part of a worldwide mobilization movement, in more than 30 countries and 80 cities, according to Elena Pushkareva.
With information from Andréane Williams