Russia Launches Criminal Probe Into Protest Calls

The Russian government has opened a criminal investigation against the unidentified people who have called for an unsanctioned anticorruption demonstration in Moscow on April 2.

Russia's Investigative Committee announced on April 1 that it was investigating the crime of "calling for mass unrest."

"On the Internet…, freely available to an unlimited number of people, an unidentified person has posted messages calling for actions of a severely extremist nature," a statement from the committee posted on its website said.

The government has already reportedly blocked access to a number of Internet pages calling for the protests.

Last week, the posts and videos appeared, making several demands, including the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an end to Russian military operations in Ukraine and Syria, the release and exoneration of anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny, and the payment of compensation to activists detained during a Moscow protest on March 26.

The March 26 protests, which brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in dozens of Russian cities, were the largest antigovernment protests in the country in the last five years.

More than 1,000 people were detained, including Navalny, who is serving a 15-day administrative jail sentence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 30 that protesters who break the law by participating in unsanctioned demonstrations or causing unrest should be punished.

Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS