By Stefan J. Bos
It's perhaps not usual to hear piano music during a police raid. But that's what happened when Anastasia Vadilyeva decided to play her piano defiantly. The doctor of detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny was confronted by a police officer reading out an official document and demanding that she sign it. She is among several Navalny aids targeted by security forces. Even his brother Oleg was detained.
But at an appeals hearing, Navalny made clear he will not end his anti-corruption campaign against Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin officials. In recent days his group published a video of a near 1.4 billion dollar Black Sea palace allegedly owned by Putin, though the Kremlin denies the charges.
Navalny spoke at an appeals hearing where a judge heard and then rejected his appeal against preliminary detention for 30 days.
"You won't manage to frighten dozens of millions of people who were robbed by those in power even though those people
who are now under arrest face hardships."
He referred to reports that thousands of people were detained when police used force to break up anti-Putin rallies across Russia demanding Navalny's release.
Despite last weekend's riots, more protests are planned, explained Navalny's chief of staff, Leonid Volkov. "All our efforts are concentrated on those upcoming court hearings. That is why we are staging these protests right now. Because it is very important for us that this court releases Alexei," he stressed.
"Because we all know that this court decision will be entirely political, and it depends actually on how much pressure we will be able to put on Putin and his courts on the Russian streets," Volkov added.
Alexei Navalny was detained on January 17 for allegedly not complying with conditions surrounding a suspended prison sentence on his supporters' view as trumped-up embezzlement charges.
If convicted, he may face three and a half years in prison. Navalny had only just returned from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a near-fatal Russian nerve agent attack. Moscow has denied wrongdoing.
He could have stayed in Germany. But the 44-year-old married father of two said he doesn't want to remain a dissident in exile.