Russian Police Arrest Hundreds Of Anti-Corruption Protesters During Rallies Against Putin’s Government

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On Sunday, nearly 100 cities across Russia saw anti-corruption rallies take place against President Vladimir Putin’s government. The collective effect is being called the largest demonstration against Putin since 2012 (when he was plagued by accusations of voter fraud). No official tally exists on the total number of Sunday protesters across the country. However, Bloomberg cites a 60,000 estimate that was broadcast by independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy (which is not part of the notorious Russia state media).

Riot police were out in full force and clashed violently with rally attendees who brandished anti-government signs and chanted in unison. Hundreds of protesters — men, women, children, and the elderly alike — landed in custody. In Moscow alone, over 700 people were arrested, and these videos show the breadth of the crowd gathered outside St. Petersburg Palace Square, where roughly 10,000 protesters made their presence known.

The Kremlin attempted to preemptively declare all of these rallies illegal and succeeded in all but 17 locations. In Moscow, opposition leader Alexei Navalny (who’s regarded as the “chief architect of the rallies”) was swiftly taken into custody upon his arrival. Navalny recently demanded that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev step down while alleging that he had scooped up $1 billion in luxury properties and assets through bribes. This summary of those accusations arrives via CNN, which also relays the Kremlin’s response:

In a report published on March 2, Navalny said Medvedev has a portfolio of assets including “huge pieces of land in the most sought-after regions, yachts, apartments in old mansions, agricultural complexes and wineries in Russia and abroad.” Navalny’s report claims this was all purchased through “bribes from oligarchs, and state bank loans.”

Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, told state-run news agency RIA Novosti, “It is pointless to comment on the propagandistic outbursts of a convicted opposition figure, who has already announced he is running some kind of election campaign and fighting against the authorities.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the report “not the first creative effort from this well-known convicted citizen,” according to Tass.

Edward Snowden, who’s currently living under asylum in Russia, condemned the arrests: “Sanctioned or unsanctioned, meeting peaceful protesters with force is clear injustice.” He also illuminates the arrest of journalist Alec Luhn (of The Guardian), who was taken into custody after he took a photo of protesters being arrested (while identifying himself as a journalist):

As many are aware, being a journalist is a sometimes deadly profession in Russia. Below, more videos show the incredible presence of protesters, who came out in droves on Sunday despite the threat of arrest.

(Via New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg & CNN)