Over 2,000 held at anti-Putin rallies
Russian police on Saturday detained more than 2,000 protesters, including the wife of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as several thousands took to the streets nationwide to denounce President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Thousands of people, including teenagers, packed Moscow’s central Pushkin Square and nearby streets as riot police hauled off demonstrators and beat others with batons.
Police detained more than 2,131 people, including 795 in Moscow, the OVD-Info monitoring group reported. Among those detained were Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya, who was later released, and his prominent aide Lyubov Sobol.
“What a joy that you are here!” Navalnaya wrote before being detained and posting a picture of herself from inside a police van. The protests in Moscow were estimated to be the largest demonstrators since 2019 when Navalny supporters rallied to demand free local elections.
Navalny had called on Russians to protest this week after surviving a near-fatal suspected poisoning with Novichok and returning to Moscow following months of treatment in Germany, only to be arrested immediately on arrival.
Some protesters marched towards the Kremlin, while others blocked Tverskaya Street, the Russian capital’s main thoroughfare. Police clashed with the demonstrators in the city centre and hit them with truncheons.
Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund said on Twitter said that “an incredible number” of people had gathered in the capital. Moscow police, which are accused of downplaying turnout at rallies, said 4,000 turned up.
Thousands took to the streets in the Far East, Siberia and the Urals including Khabarovsk, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.
Russia says US diplomats published rally routes
Russia on Saturday accused the US embassy in Moscow of publishing routes of planned demonstrations in support of Navalny and demanded an explanation from US diplomats.
“Yesterday, the US embassy in Moscow published ‘protest routes’ in Russian cities and tossed around information about a ‘march on the Kremlin,’” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.