Police yesterday aggressively detained protesters in Moscow and other cities as thousands of supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny took to the streets following his call to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
In the Russian capital, which usually mobilizes the largest rallies, protesters planned to meet on the central Pushkin Square at 2pm and march toward the Kremlin, but more than an hour before the planned rally police began detaining people, journalists reported.
Putin’s most charismatic critic put out the mass rally call after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent and returning to Moscow last weekend following months of treatment in Germany.
He was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport and jailed.
Protests were held early yesterday in the Russian Far East, Siberia and the Urals, including Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk and Chita, where several thousand turned out, Navalny supporters said.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies, said that police had detained more than 200 people nationwide.
Protesters told reporters that they wanted to see new faces in politics and that authorities were persecuting Navalny for speaking the truth.
“The country is in a state of complete lawlessness because of Putin’s rule,” said Maria Kirichenko, a young protester in the Pacific port of Vladivostok.
Ahead of the demonstrations, Navalny’s team released a video investigation into an opulent Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin, who has been in power for 20 years. The two-hour report has been viewed more than 66 million times.
In Vladivostok, demonstrators gathered in the city center, chanting: “Putin is a thief” and “Freedom to Navalny.”
Agence France-Presse footage showed riot police running after protesters and beating them with batons.
In Yakutsk, south of the Arctic Circle, protesters wrapped up against the cold, rallied in temperatures of minus-50°C.
Ahead of the demonstrations several key Navalny aides, including his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, were taken into police custody for contravening protest laws and handed short jail sentences.
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