MOSCOW — The Kremlin mounted Russia’s most fearsome nationwide police operation in recent memory on Sunday, seeking to overwhelm a protest movement backing the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny that swept across the country for a second weekend in a row.
But the show of force — including closed subway stations, thousands of arrests and often brutal tactics — failed to smother the unrest. People rallied for Mr. Navalny on the ice of a Pacific bay and in the thousands in cities from Siberia to the Ural Mountains to St. Petersburg. In Moscow, protesters evaded a warren of checkpoints and lines of riot police officers to march in a column toward the jail where Mr. Navalny is being held, chanting, “All for one and one for all!”
By late Sunday evening in Moscow, more than 5,000 people had been detained in at least 85 cities across Russia, an activist group reported, though many were later released. Previously unseen numbers of riot police officers in black helmets, camouflage and body armor essentially locked down the center of the metropolis of 13 million people, stopping passers-by miles from the protest to check their documents and ask what they were doing outside.
“I don’t understand what they’re afraid of,” a protester named Anastasia Kuzmina, a 25-year-old account manager at an advertising agency, said of the police. Referring to the peak year of Stalin’s mass repression, she added, “It’s like we’re slipping into 1937.”
But the show of force also made it clear that Mr. Putin has no plans to back down. Shortly after the American secretary of state, Antony Blinken, condemned “the persistent use of harsh tactics against peaceful
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