RUSSIA: Security operatives arrest opposition leader, activists before Putin's inauguration

Saul Bowman
May 7, 2018

Protesters are also angry that Navalny was barred from taking part in March elections because of a felony conviction that his supporters say was fabricated to marginalize him.

Police detained at least 1,200 people across the country. Law enforcement officers, grabbed by the arms and legs, carried the Bulk of the crowd. Navalny has served several multi-week stretches in jail on similar charges.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said it was hard to tell exactly how many people had shown up at the protests due to different estimations from police and protesters themselves.

Authorities said some 200 people were detained in Saint Petersburg.

Among the measures to preserve the illusion of Putin's popular support was the exclusion of Navalny himself from the election.

"I'm not too sure what the protesters want, but, economically, we're fine", said a 37-year-old business analyst who would only give her first name, Olga, who happened upon the Moscow rally on her regular weekend walk. "He should leave for good".

In the Urals city of Chelyabinsk more than 160 people were detained, while more than 60 were arrested in the eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said OVD-Info. Some of those detained were reportedly minors.

"The country needs changes", a 20-year-old protester, Stepan Duvanov, said in Saint Petersburg. Iraida Nikolaeva screamed, running after police in Moscow when they detained her son. No official figures were given for the country as a whole.

The protests come days before the scheduled inauguration of Putin for his fourth term as president, which would extend his effective political control of Russian Federation into its third decade. Social media sites including Instagram have also complied with Russian government takedown requests linked to Navalny's investigation of alleged corruption involving oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.

Putin is due to be sworn in for his fourth term on May 7, extending an 18-year reign that his supporters say has lifted the country "from its knees" and is denounced by his opponents as a corrupt, calcifying authoritarian kleptocracy.

Protests took place in the Far East and Siberia as well. Pro-Putin supporters also turned up, leading to scuffles between the two groups.

"Unfortunately, as we expected, there were provocations on the part of the organizers of the unauthorized rally", he continued, according to Interfax.

Navalny said he had been charged with organising an unsanctioned meeting and with disobeying the police.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert posted on Twitter that the United States "condemns Russia's detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters and calls for their immediate release".

A spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a statement saying the police reaction in Russia threatened "the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in the Russian Federation".

Navalny, who organized the protest in Moscow and in several other cities in Russian Federation, was arrested for illegal protest organization shortly after arriving at the event.

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