Moscow drama teacher who joined Navalny protests fired for 'amoral act'

·2-min read

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Artyom Nazarov, one of thousands of Russians detained by police at Saturday's anti-Kremlin protests, was still in custody some 40 hours later when he learned his college had decided to sack him for what it described as "amoral" activity.

The 44-year-old senior drama teacher said police detained him at the protest in Moscow as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the Kremlin release jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Police had said the protests were illegal, and rounded up more than 4,000 people, according to a monitoring group.

Nazarov, who was held in custody until Monday, when a court fined him 10,000 roubles ($132), found out abruptly that Moscow's Institute of Theatrical Art had decided to fire him via a work chat on WhatsApp.

The sacking illustrates the risks that demonstrators run by taking part in anti-Kremlin protest activity as police have cracked down on Navalny's most prominent allies and opened criminal cases.

Dmitry Tomilin, the institute's rector who publicly supports President Vladimir Putin, explained Nazarov's sacking on the institute's website.

"The teacher's act of deliberately committing a crime in no way corresponds to the morals or ethics of a teacher and in my opinion is an amoral act," he said.

Nazarov told Reuters he had not originally planned to attend the protests, but decided to go along as his son was going and he felt he could not stay on the sidelines.

"I wish Russia was a European nation, and a country I'm not ashamed of... And as time goes by, there are more and more reasons to be ashamed. And it pains me deeply," he said.

Navalny's supporters plan to stage a new protest on Sunday. Nazarov said he was unsure if he would attend.

"To live in a country that is descending into an abyss of absurdity and fear is much more frightening than what happened to me or could happen there (on Sunday)," he said.

($1 = 76.0600 roubles)

(Reporting by Yury Bakhnov; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams)