Saturday 18 November 2017

Mass arrests as protests sweep Russia

Russia’s leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny is detained by police in downtown Moscow during a mass protest in March 2017 Photo: AP
Russia’s leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny is detained by police in downtown Moscow during a mass protest in March 2017 Photo: AP

James Rothwell

Russia's opposition leader was among hundreds ­arrested in Moscow yesterday as anti-­corruption protests swept across 80 towns and cities.

Thousands took part in what are believed to be the biggest demonstrations in Russia since 2012, with the largest held in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Alexei Navalny, a campaigner who hopes to stand against Vladimir Putin in next year's elections, was bundled into a police van yesterday morning as he approached a group of protesters in Moscow's Pushkin Square.

An American journalist captured the incident on camera, only to be arrested himself and subsequently charged with "participation in [an] unsanctioned protest".

The protests were triggered by a film produced by Mr Navalny which claims that Russia's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has seized a collection of yachts, several mansions and a vineyard through questionable means.

Mr Medvedev is also alleged to have used a network of charity websites run by business associates to conceal his links to the deals.

Police drag away a protester. Photo: REUTERS
Police drag away a protester. Photo: REUTERS

It comes after hundreds of demonstrators were also arrested in Belarus over the weekend during a protest in Minsk against a tax on the unemployed.

Around 200 demonstrators were arrested in the Russian capital, according to Russian state media, adding that 25 had been detained in the eastern port of ­Vladivostok.

Witnesses said four people were also detained at a rally in Yekaterinburg in the industrial Urals region.

On Yekaterinburg's Labour Square, protesters waved posters reading, "We are the authorities here", while nationalists and supporters of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party looked on.

A man shouts anti-government slogans in downtown Moscow. Photo: AP
A man shouts anti-government slogans in downtown Moscow. Photo: AP

Some witnesses complained of heavy-handed tactics, with one image of the scenes in ­Moscow showing a young woman being restrained by at least five riot policemen.

Pictures and videos of the protesters posted on social media suggested a large number of them were youngsters, with some looking no older than 14 or 15. Police estimated the size of the crowds in Moscow at around 7,000, though protesters said the actual numbers were far larger.

Anger

The string of protests yesterday marked the largest outpouring of anger with Vladimir Putin's government since the 2011-'12 demonstrations which followed an election dogged by fraud claims.

Law enforcement officers line up along a street as they block a rally in Moscow, Russia. Photo: REUTERS
Law enforcement officers line up along a street as they block a rally in Moscow, Russia. Photo: REUTERS

"People are unhappy with the fact that there's been no investigation," protester Ivan Gronstein said.

Some opposition supporters on Manezh Square in Moscow shouted "Putin is a thief" as tourists wandered nearby.

Denis Korneev, a 17-year-old film student, said: "I've come out (to protest) against corruption and want the authorities to answer the accusations in the Navalny film.

"In many countries the government would have resigned over this."

Several demonstrators painted their faces green, a reference to an incident on March 20 when Mr Navalny had green dye thrown in his face by a pro-government activist.

"Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don't agree with the authorities is obvious from what is going on in the country today," Anna Ivanova (19) said.

"I am a bit scared." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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