More than 1,600 arrested in Russia amid anti-Putin protests
(Sourced from PTI)
Russians angered by the impending inauguration of Vladimir Putin to a new term as president protested on Saturday in scores of cities across the country and police responded by reportedly arresting more than 1,600 of them. Among those arrested was the protest organizer Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin's most prominent foe. Police seized Navalny by the arms and legs. Here's more.
Police carried the thrashing activist from Moscow's Pushkin Square, where thousands were gathered for an unauthorized protest. Police also used batons against protesters who chanted "Putin is a thief!" and "Russia will be free!" Demonstrations under the slogan "He is not our czar" took place throughout the country, from Yakutsk in the far northeast to St Petersburg and Kaliningrad on the fringes of Europe.
The protests demonstrated that Navalny's opposition, although considered beleaguered by Russian officials and largely ignored by the state-controlled television, has sizable support in much of the country.
"I think that Putin isn't worthy of leading this country. He has been doing it for 18 years and has done nothing good for it," said Moscow demonstrator Dmitry Nikitenko. OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political repression, said at least 1,607 people had been detained at demonstrations in 20 Russian cities. It said 704 were arrested in Moscow, and another 229 in St Petersburg.
Moscow police said that about 300 people were detained in the capital, according to the state news agencies, and that there was no official countrywide tally. Navalny was to be charged with disobeying police, an offense that carries a sentence of up to 15 days, news reports said, though when he would face a judge was not immediately clear.
In St Petersburg, police blocked off a stretch of Nevsky Prospekt as a crowd of about 1,000 marched along the renowned avenue; some demonstrators were detained. Putin is to be inaugurated for a new six-year term on Monday after winning re-election in March with 77% of the vote. Navalny hoped to challenge Putin on the ballot but was blocked because of a felony conviction.