Opposition Leader Navalny Calls For 'Anti-Crisis' Protests in Moscow

Navalny
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (L) talks to a policeman before being detained after he visited a local broadcast radio station to attend an interview in Moscow January 14, 2015. Maxim Zmeyev/REUTERS

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has responded to a Moscow court's refusal today to shorten his house arrest by organising what he called an 'anti-crisis' protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin, echoing language used against the financial crisis and subsequent austerity measures in southern Europe.

"Putin and his government have not been able to pull the country out of the crisis and they must go," Navalny wrote on his blog today, having heard the results of the court's ruling. He also posted images of the mass protests which gripped Moscow in 1991.

"I plead all muscovites and visitors to the capital to come out on the streets on March 1 2015 and take part in a peaceful manifestation against the financial crisis," Navalny wrote.

Earlier this morning, a Moscow high court refused Navalny's appeal to be released from house arrest before February 15. The opposition leader was given a suspended sentence in December last year, when he was convicted of embezzling two companies in a highly controversial trial.

In response to this latest decision by Moscow authorities which will keep him away from public events, Navalny has begun drumming up support for a protest in Moscow in March, although it might be that a court will extend his house arrest to this date.

"The idea is simple," Navalny wrote today. "Those sitting in the Kremlin have not managed [to halt the financial crisis] and they are still not managing to do it. They have had 15 years and three trillion dollars at their disposal, all from our natural resources. A government such as this cannot stand strong," Navalny added.

The legal precedent for Navalny's detention has been much contested - he believes the case against him has been levelled illegally, while the EU has branded his house arrest a "politically motivated" move from Moscow authorities to stifle his anti-Putin activism.

Navalny and his brother Oleg were found guilty of embezzlement in a trial last month, for which Oleg was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, prompting Russian opposition leaders to question the legality of Oleg's detention, referring to him as a "political hostage".

Meanwhile Alexei Navalny has continued to protest the verdict, violating the terms of his house arrest and even voicing his criticisms of Putin on national radio.

The protest planned in March will be the first that Navalny would attend since the day if his verdict on 30th December last year. That same night he joined protesters in the Red Square in front of the Kremlin, in a demonstration which resulted in more than 100 protesters being arrested.

Navalny has continuously criticised Putin both online and in the Russian media, specifically using the country's economic downturn to argue for the president's removal.

The fall of oil prices and the rouble's volatility, caused in part by US and EU-backed sanctions against Russia over its military presence in Ukraine, has led to rates of inflation in the country not seen since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The Russian rouble devalued by 40% last year, suffering a steeper downturn than in 1998 when then-President Boris Yeltsin resigned from office.