From central Moscow to the Arctic, thousands of Russian protesters on Sunday called for a boycott of the upcoming presidential election even as the authorities detained organizers and raided the office of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Police detained Navalny, who branded the boycott a “voters’ strike” against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, shortly after the protests began. But more than 1,000 people took to one of Moscow’s central thoroughfares nevertheless. Thousands more turned out on squares and streets in St. Petersburg, in Siberia and in places as remote as Murmansk, a port city in the far north where the temperature Sunday afternoon was 8 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
“By sitting at home on our couch and talking to friends, nothing will change,” said Alexandra Sokolova, a 31-year-old financial adviser who joined the Moscow protest. “Maybe my kids will live in a better country.”
The protests Sunday were unusual in their scope, with Navalny supporters organizing some 115 events across the country. But they appeared smaller than the demonstrations he orchestrated last June, when Russian news media estimated that at least 50,000 people protested nationwide.