Russian police on Sunday arrested protesters demonstrating in support of imprisoned anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny on his birthday as British officials said recent crackdowns on anti-war demonstrators show the “paranoia” of President Vladimir Putin. Photo courtesy of OVD-Info
June 4 (UPI) -- Russian police on Sunday arrested protesters demonstrating in support of imprisoned anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny on his birthday as British officials said recent crackdowns on anti-war demonstrators show the "paranoia" of President Vladimir Putin.
OVD-Info, an independent human rights group based in Russia, provided live updates Sunday as police made arrests of Navalny supporters across the country.
Navalny, who survived being poisoned, has accused Putin of being responsible and has been arrested and imprisoned in Russia since 2021. His arrest continues to spark regular protests.
One protester in St. Petersburg, identified by OVD-Info as Yuri Samokhvalov, was beaten by police officers during his arrest so badly that he had to be hospitalized and taken away by ambulance.
Five people who were arrested in Moscow were charged with "disobedience of government officials," according to the organization - which is defending them in court.
Anton Pazukhin was detained in the Red Square in Moscow for simply holding a poster that read "#Free." Others held signs that wished Navalny a "Happy Birthday."
At least 54 people were detained in the capital alone on Sunday, according to OVD-Info.
The news comes amid a crackdown on citizens wearing blue and yellow items which the British Defense Ministry said Sunday shows the paranoia of Putin surrounding the war in Ukraine.
"Some local Russian security officials are likely interpreting Russia's draconian wartime legislation to mean that public display of blue and yellow items is outlawed because it might evidence discreet support for Ukraine," the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Sunday.
In May, Russian authorities arrested a care home worker for allegedly wearing a blue and yellow jacket to work, according to the British Defense Ministry.
Russian National Guard troops also recently arrested a 22-year-old man in the town of Volkhov, near St. Petersburg, before officials later determined the blue and yellow flag on his clothing was the logo for the country's own Aerospace Forces.
"The clampdown highlights uncertainty within a paranoid Russian officialdom of what is and is deemed permissible within an increasingly totalitarian system," the British Defense Ministry said.
OVD-Info has tracked 19,586 arrests at anti-war protests in Russia since the war began on Feb. 24, 2022.
The extent of protests in Russia has been difficult to document since Putin approved laws criminalizing speaking out against the Russian military and targeting journalists who report what the government considers to be "false news" about the invasion.
However, in one instance, Dmitry and Yulia Golovlyov -- citizens of Belarus -- were detained in Moscow because they were caught launching white and blue balloons and a flag, according to OVD-Info.
In dozens of articles published over the last month, OVD-Info has tracked arrests for things as mundane as arguing about the war in cafes and on trains.
Analysts have suggested infighting has escalated among some of Russia's top leaders regarding the war.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in an analysis published Saturday that Yevgeny Prigozhin -- the head of the Wagner Group mercenary forces -- has escalated his feud with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Russian military troops had placed anti-tank mines and other explosives on routes Wagner forces were using to exit fighting in Bakhmut, Prigozhin alleged Friday.
"Prigozhin asserted that these charges were placed in rear areas with no Ukrainian activity and that the MoD likely meant for Wagner forces to detonate the explosives in order to give Wagner a 'public flogging,'" the ISW said in its analysis.
The ISW analysts said that Prigozhin's "flamboyant allegations" are also "likely an attempt to retain his heightened initiative within the Russian information space following the capture of Bakhmut."