Hundreds arrested in Russia amid anti-Putin protests

Moscow: Russians angered by the impending inauguration of Vladimir Putin to a new term as president demonstrated throughout the country on Saturday.
Police arrested hundreds, including protest organiser Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin’s most prominent foe.
Police seized Navalny by the arms and legs and carried the thrashing activist from Moscow’s Pushkin Square, where thousands were gathered for an unauthorized protest.
The human rights monitor, OVD-Info, wrote on social media that it had received reports that at least 1,029 people had been detained in 19 different cities across the country. It said 475 of the detentions had taken place in Moscow.
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.
In Russia’s second-largest city police blocked off a large section of St Petersburg’s main avenue and were seen arresting demonstrators taking part in protests.
Video broadcast on Alexei Navalny’s YouTube channel showed the wide Nevsky Prospekt avenue blocked off around Gostiny Dvor, the sprawling trade complex that is one of the city’s landmarks.
A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 had earlier begun marching down Nevsky. There was no immediate tally of the number of arrests.
Navalny, who was barred from challenging Putin in the March presidential election, called on Russians to stage a day of rallies across the country ahead of Putin’s inauguration.
Protests kicked off in Russia’s Far East and Siberia regions, with dosens of demonstrators detained by police, Navalny’s team and independent monitors said.
In the eastern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk 15 people including a journalist were detained, said OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group.
“Detentions were conducted in a rough manner,” the monitor said, adding that some of the detained had scratches and bruises.
At least ten protesters were detained in the Siberian city of Barnaul, Navalny’s team said.
Eighteen people including several miners were detained in Novokuznetsk in southwestern Siberia, OVD-Info said.
In the Urals city of Chelyabinsk police detained three people before the start of a protest, activist Boris Zolotaryovsky wrote on Facebook.
In Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where the rallies were to begin at 1100 GMT, authorities have not granted permission for the demonstrations to go ahead.
Ahead of the Moscow rally dosens of pro-Putin activists descended on a central square in the Russian capital where Navalny’s supporters were also gathering, AFP correspondents reported.