Hundreds detained as opposition activists hold protests in several Russian cities
Around 500 people have been detained in central Moscow during an unsanctioned rally, with opposition figure Aleksey Navalny among them.
More rallies, some unsanctioned and others permitted by local authorities, took place all across Russia.
Police detained around 500 people in the city center on Sunday, Moscow police said in a statement.
The detentions were made “during an unsanctioned public event,” they said, adding that those detained have been delivered to local police stations for further administrative procedures.
For the Moscow demonstration, around 8,000 people took to the streets, according to police.
As the rally continued, police used loudspeakers to call on the protesters to disperse.
Protesters came despite failing to receive permission from the mayor’s office to hold a rally at the site of their choosing.
The authorities suggested two alternative locations for the event, but the organizers rejected them.
Navalny was detained shortly after showing up for the event in the center of the Russian capital.
He was charged with violating an administrative code regulating public gatherings and is facing a fine, community service, or administrative detention, TASS reports, citing police.
A police officer was injured in central Moscow, Russian news agencies report, citing police.
He was hit in the head by one of the rally participants, authorities said, adding that the officer was hospitalized with a brain injury.
A video has emerged online showing a riot police officer lying on the ground, seemingly unconscious.
A man with a gun was among those detained at the rally.
The moment was captured on film by RT's Ruptly video news agency.
RT's Ilya Petrenko, who was at the scene of the protests, reported the event in the capital to have been “essentially just a march along Tverskaya Street.”
Moscow police warned on Saturday that participating in the unsanctioned rally could pose a risk to personal safety and advised people against doing so.
Law enforcement say that somebody sprayed “irritant gas” in the capital’s Pushkin Square, but rejected reports that it was part of a police action.
Protests, some sanctioned and others in violation of a municipal ban, also took place in other Russian cities on Sunday.
Large unsanctioned gatherings took place in St. Petersburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, and Khabarovsk.
In cities such as Perm, Ufa, Vladimir, Voronezh, Barnaul, and Krasnoyarsk, hundreds took to the streets in rallies sanctioned by the authorities.
In St. Petersburg, an unsanctioned opposition rally was held just next to another unconnected gathering of demonstrators who rallied for traditional values.
Police estimated the number of participants in the opposition event at around 3,000 in St. Petersburg, and said that three individuals were facing administrative action for minor violations.
The rally in Novosibirsk, which was sanctioned by the local authorities after a court ordered them to overturn a ban, attracted around 1,500 people, according to the mayor’s office.
At another sanctioned event in Tomsk, around 400 protesters showed up, according to local law enforcement.
In Vladivostok, 25 activists have been detained by police for trying to violate a ban on public gatherings.
Police released those detained shortly afterwards.
The usual procedure for such cases of detention (which is not an actual 'arrest') is to identify the individuals for potential administrative action and then release them.
In Irkutsk, around 300 people protested without any incidents, as was the case in Belgorod, in which an estimated 150 people took part.
In Krasnodar, an organizer of the unsanctioned rally was detained after one of the protesters threw a smoke stick at a group of people standing nearby, but otherwise no violations were reported.
In Saratov, several opposition rallies in different parts of the city gathered around 400 people in all.
In Kazan, an unsanctioned rally was conducted with police choosing not to intervene, but warning protesters of potential consequences.
Navalny called on his supporters to protest on Sunday, weeks after releasing a report on the alleged corruption of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
He accused the head of the Russian government of personal enrichment through embezzlement.