Russia has issued tenders to buy anti-riot kits and protective police gear, state procurement documents revealed, ahead of a demonstration that allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny hope will be the largest in modern Russian history.
44-year-old Navalny was incarcerated in February on charges he said were fabricated. He declared a hunger strike on Wednesday in an attempt to force the prison holding him to provide proper medical care for what he said was acute pain in his back and legs.
His allies, who staged 3 protests in the winter to demand his release, said they would announce a date for a new nationwide street demonstration once 500,000 people had registered to attend. Nearly 370,000 people have registered thus far.
The Russian authorities have considered such street protests to be illegal and have vowed to break them up.
An Interior Ministry tender, published on Russia’s state procurement online portal on March 30, requested the provision of more than 2,000 police anti-riot kits worth some 239 million roubles ($3.15 million). Each kit includes a helmet, body armor and leg protectors.
The ministry also issued tenders for the purchase of 1,625 protective kits, 200 helmets and over 400 bulletproof vests.
The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In February, the prison authority issued tenders for the purchase of hundreds of smoke grenades, tasers and protective gear after nationwide movements in support of Navalny.
The Kremlin critic was detained in January when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had received treatment after being poisoned in Siberia with what German military doctors said was a nerve agent.
Western countries have called for his release. Moscow has called such appeals unacceptable meddling in its internal affairs, saying it has seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned.