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Russia just had a mini popular uprising

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Ten days ago, the political lethargy which Russia had descended into since Vladimir Putin won another six years in power last year was unexpectedly disrupted. The arrest of a journalist triggered a chain of events that shook Russian society awake and pushed it to unprecedented action.

The story of shocking police transgressions and the mass mobilisation that they provoked is indeed worthy of a Hollywood political thriller production, but it also tells us something important about the state of affairs in Russia today.

On June 6, investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who works for the independent outlet Meduza, was arrested and accused of making and selling drugs. Photos were uploaded on the website of the interior ministry showing bags containing an unknown substance and what appeared to be chemical lab equipment, which allegedly were found at his apartment. The police said that more drugs were found in the journalist's backpack. He was facing between 10 and 20 years in prison.

Golunov and Meduza staff immediately denied the accusations and said that the drugs had been planted on him. The evidence indeed appeared flimsy. A blood test showed that there were no drugs in his blood, while none of the suspicious bags used as "evidence" had his fingerprints on them; the police also refused to check his hands for traces of drugs. The photos published on the interior ministry's website also turned out to have been taken at a different location and not Golunov's apartment.

The case and the accusations were outrageous even by Russian standards. It is true that Russian journalists face many dangers, especially outside Moscow and St Petersburg. There have been cases of intimidation, beatings and killings but never by an official authority. The arrest of Golunov was........

© Al Jazeera