Russian opposition protesters on Saturday took to the streets in Moscow to once again call for fair local council elections, despite a sweeping police crackdown and ban on the event.
The unauthorized march comes after stark warnings from Russian authorities not to go ahead with the rally.
Protesters described the demonstration as “a walk along the boulevards” in Moscow as anger boils over the refusal of officials to let popular opposition candidates run in next month’s city council elections.
Independent monitoring group OVD-Info told the Reuters news agency that police had detained nearly 300 people in central Moscow on Saturday.
A heavy police presence, metal barriers and empty buses used to transport detainees lined the boulevards, and mobile internet was down in central Moscow. Some shops and cafes were shut Saturday following warnings by city authorities.
Crackdown on opposition
During last weekend’s rally, nearly 1,400 people were arrested. OVD-Info said it is the highest number of arrests since 2012, when tens of thousands protested Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency after four years as prime minister.
Most of those arrested last weekend were released immediately, but some still remain in jail.
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Russian police on Saturday also detained prominent opposition activist Lyubov Sobol ahead of the protest.
Sobol had called on people to attend the demonstration. The former FBK lawyer was detained in a taxi as she tried to make her way to the protest and driven off in a police van. Officials also said they have opened a criminal investigation into alleged money laundering by an anti-corruption foundation set up by jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment on the situation in Moscow.
In the polls in September, the opposition hopes to end the monopoly of Kremlin loyalists in Moscow’s parliament.
sri/jlw (AFP, Reuters)