Russian police detain opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 1,000 anti-Putin protesters
More than 1,000 protesters including top opposition leader Alexei Navalny were detained on Saturday during nationwide rallies against Vladimir Putin’s upcoming inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term, an independent monitor said.
Top opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his ally Nikolai Lyaskin and a number of their supporters were detained in Moscow as police roughly rounded up protesters.
At least 1,029 people were held in 19 cities, said OVD-Info, adding that more than 470 people had been detained in Moscow.
Navalny had called for people to take to the streets in more than 90 towns and cities across the world’s largest country to register their opposition to what Navalny says is Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Tsar-like rule.
Putin won a landslide re-election victory in March, extending his grip over Russia for six more years until 2024, making him the longest-lasting leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin who ruled for nearly 30 years.
Navalny, who was barred from running in the election against Putin on what he says was a false pretext, was detained soon after showing up on Moscow’s central Pushkinskaya Square where young people chanted “Russia without Putin” and “Down with the Tsar.”
Footage of the detention posted online showed five policemen carting him off to a waiting van by his arms and legs.
Navalny, who has been detained and jailed for organising similar protests in the past, had managed to briefly address several thousand people beforehand, saying he was glad people had shown up.
Reuters reporters saw riot police systematically detaining other protesters in Moscow, some of them harshly, before bundling them into buses. In St Petersburg, protesters were prevented from reaching the city’s central square.
Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000.
Backed by state TV and the ruling party, and credited with an approval rating of around 80%, he is lauded by supporters as a father-of-the-nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow’s global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.