Russia Threatens Parents and Teachers of Anti-Putin Protesters

Supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attend a rally next to a monument to author Alexander Pushkin in Moscow, Russia, October 7. Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Russia's government is looking to punish the parents and teachers of young people who take part in anti-government rallies such as the ones held by opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny.

Navalny, whose corruption investigations on YouTube have earned him the disdain of a handful of Kremlin figures and a strong support base among Russian millennials, launched two mass waves of protest this year. Despite a push to get his events sanctioned by the government ahead of time, Navalny has long complained that authorities are using a wide range of administrative measures to de-legitimize his events, usually starting or ending with his arrest.

The Russian Interior Ministry's head of counter extremism is now backing the idea of penalizing young citizens who join Navalny or others at such events, business news channel RBC reported Tuesday.

"The participation of youths in unsanctioned street protests is an important problem," said Timur Valiulin, the head of the ministry's department for combatting extremism. "The percentage of young people participating in unsanctioned protest events is growing. The drop in the average age of the participants in these events concerns us."

"We must think about the possibility of entering amendments, changes that will bring to account not only the organizers of such protests but the parents of pupils that take part and their tutors at school," he said during a meeting of the Kremlin's human rights council.

Since running for mayor of Moscow in 2013 with support from the liberal and middle class voters in the capital, drawing almost a third of all ballots, Navalny has expanded his support base in Russia's regions, where his digital-savvy campaigning has also attracted an audience of college and high school students.

On his way from his Moscow home to an event in the city of Nizhny Novgorod last month, Navalny branded Russian President Vladimir Putin an "old man" who was afraid of him, as police detained him on unclear charges.

Navalny later accused police of seeking to stifle him in the lead-up to Putin's 65 birthday—the age at which Russian state officials can officially retire.