Demonstrators calling for the release of Navalny, January 18, 2021. -
Sergei Bobylev / TASS
Thousands of videos and messages of support for the opponent Alexeï Navalny, arrested this Sunday when he returned to Russia, have been circulating for a few days on the TikTok platform, very popular with adolescents.
Calls to protest, advice not to get arrested, or videos of students replacing Putin's portrayal of Navalny in their classroom have been posted on TikTok.
"What is happening on social networks does not necessarily reflect reality (...) Young people will not take to the streets en masse tomorrow", estimates Phlippe Migault, director of the European Center for Strategic Analysis (CEAS), specialist from Russia.
The Russian authorities are worried.
In recent days, they have been trying to curb calls for mobilization against the power in place on social networks.
After his arrest on Sunday, the Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny retaliated by launching a call to his supporters to demonstrate this Saturday, and by broadcasting on Tuesday an investigation into the huge and sumptuous property which he claims to benefit from President Vladimir Poutin, on the shores of the Black Sea, and whose construction would have cost more than a billion euros.
This video, which lasts over two hours, has been viewed more than 30 million times in just a few days.
She fueled thousands of social media posts, which also relayed the call to demonstrate on Saturday to free the Russian opponent.
Several personalities through which actors, musicians and athletes have announced their support for Alexey Navalny.
The former captain of the Russian football team, Igor Denissov, usually not very interested in politics, declared that he had "great respect" for Navalny, and considered that the latter "should be released".
The very popular Russian YouTuber Yuri Doud also denounced a "scandalous" situation in a publication displaying more than 800,000 "likes" on Instagram.
But it is above all the youth of the country who have mobilized in recent days on social networks, and more particularly on TikTok.
More than 90 million views for the hashtag # LibérezNavalny
Posts in support of Navalny have exploded on the hugely popular TikTok video sharing platform.
Many videos have been posted in recent days by high school students, one of the challenges being to film oneself taking the portrait of President Putin plastered in classrooms, and to replace it with a photo of Alexeï Navalny. .
Thousands of other videos, competing in creativity, were also posted on the platform by students, calling on the country's youth to mobilize.
Tutorials and advice videos on how to avoid getting arrested, such as “the phrases that can save your life if we want to call you out at a demo” were also widely exchanged.
The hashtag # свободунавальному (# lLibérezNavalny) has been shared more than 90 million times on TikTok in just a few days.
“Every day at law school, I learn how the legislative framework works in Russia, how legal affairs should work and how human rights are guaranteed (…) But today in Russia nothing is happening normally, ”writes a TikTok user, criticizing the“ arbitrary arrest ”of Alexei Navalny last Sunday, when he arrived at the airport.
Like him, many young people have not hesitated to denounce what he considers to be a "violation of rights and freedoms".
"After the investigation published this week against Putin, it seems that there is today a strong enough grassroots movement among the youth to demand the release of Navalny," Matthew Luxmoore, Moscow correspondent for a British radio station.
Новый тренд в Тиктоке: школьники снимают портрет Путина.
Иногда ещё вместо него вешают фото Навального :) pic.twitter.com/CkddCbGnW1
- Открытка (@openrussia_team) January 19, 2021
Faced with the rise of this mobilization among young people, the Russian authorities tried this week to launch a "counter-offensive" on social networks.
A very popular influencer on TikTok thus told that she had refused 150,000 rubles (or about 1,650 €) to publish a post denouncing the return of #Navalny.
Other influencers, however, have accepted the offer and published the post in question.
According to Franco-Russian journalist Alexandre Dalsbaek, a technological high school in Balakovo (south-east) published a list with the names, dates of birth and addresses of students who participate in online opposition groups linked to #Navalny.
A student at a Moscow university also said, on condition of anonymity, that he and his classmates had been threatened with possible deportation if they attended the protests.
Kremlin measures "to block" calls to protest online
To prevent the dissemination of calls to demonstrate this Saturday, the Russian telecommunications gendarme Roskomnadzor sent a warning to the platforms TikTok and Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, ordering them to block content considered to be calls to "people". minors to participate in illegal activities ”.
Other digital giants such as Facebook and Twitter have also received orders from Russia to "block all publications with calls for demonstrations on the 23rd".
Roskomnadzor has also threatened with fines of up to four million rubles (44,600 euros) Internet platforms that will not remove "prohibited information".
The Kremlin also warned against the protests, which would amount to "illegal activities".
"Calls for participation in illegal mass events have been identified (...) and response measures from the prosecution will be taken," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The Interior Ministry has also said it is ready to "protect public order" and has promised to prosecute those who call to protest on the Internet.
The boss of the international 24-hour news channel RT, financed by the Russian State, for her part accused "TikTok, which belongs to the Chinese, of trying to orchestrate a war between children in Russia".
"Youth will not take to the streets en masse"
The fear, for the Russian authorities, of seeing many pupils and students coming to swell the ranks of the demonstrators on Saturday is therefore very real today.
The Ministry of Education even called on parents to "take an interest in their children's plans and prevent them" from joining the gatherings.
“What happens on social networks does not necessarily reflect reality.
There have already been several youth demonstrations in support of Navalny.
And there have never been more than a few thousand people, for a population in Moscow that exceeds 12 million.
There is no reason for that to change today.
Young people will not take to the streets en masse, ”however believes Philippe Migault, director of the European Center for Strategic Analysis (CEAS), a specialist in Russia.
“Moreover, contrary to popular belief, Alexeï Navalny is far from being the main opponent of Putin.
It's only the one that makes the most noise.
He has no program, no party, no support except on social networks, ”adds the specialist in Russia.
"If we imagine that Putin will bend his policy with this mobilization on social networks, and that the revolution is for tomorrow, we put our finger in the eye to the elbow", adds Philippe Migault, who recalls that the mobilization planned for Saturday was not authorized, and that in this period of health crisis - the Covid 19 continues to spread in Russia -, "those who will defy this ban will most likely be arrested".
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