Tens of thousands of protesters take to streets in Russian Federation

Frederick Owens
June 21, 2017

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was jailed for 30 days, and over 1,500 of his supporters were arrested after demonstrations across the nation on Monday against government corruption. The protesters were shouting "Putin is a thief", "Putin out" and "Russia without thieves".

Police formed several cordons at the Moscow rally to disperse the crowd, detaining protesters who resisted. He said interference had prevented contractors from building a stage at the agreed venue.

Meanwhile Navalny's YouTube channel, which had been broadcasting live to more than 50,000 people as protests across Russian Federation got underway, lost light and sound in the studio.

There was no immediate comment from police on why Navalny had been arrested or where he was taken. The protest gatherings across the country were organized by Alexei Navalny, a critic of Vladimir Putin's government. An opposition-leaning monitoring group, OVD-Info, reported far higher figures for Moscow and estimated that the total number of arrested across Russian Federation may be over 1,000.

Police say Navalny was detained for breaking laws regarding public meetings and obeying authorities, the Interfax news agency reports.

Authorities arrested Navalny after he called for his protest to be moved to Moscow's central Tverskaya street, despite being ordered to hold it in specific, out-of-the-way locations. He said the authorities pressured providers of audio, video, and stage equipment not to work with the organizers.

More than 200 towns and cities signed up for protest rallies to mark the Russia Day public holiday, according to Navalny's social media.

After Navalny announced the switch, the Moscow prosecutor's office warned that "any attempts to hold an unauthorized event on Tversakaya Street" would be illegal and "law enforcement organs will be forced to take all necessary measures" to keep order.

Russian police officers detain a participant of an opposition rally in Tverskaya street in central Moscow, Russia, on Russia Day, 12 June 2017.

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More than 1,000 protesters were arrested at a similar rally on March 26.

The protests on Monday come months after the largest political demonstrations in five years took place in March, with up to 60,000 people taking to the streets across Russian Federation to protest alleged corruption linked to the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

The Kremlin has long sought to cast the opposition as a phenomenon of a privileged, Westernised urban elite out of touch with people in Russia's far-flung regions.

The arrest did little to hamper protests, some of the biggest the country has seen in years.

The rallies suggested Kremlin opponents are able to draw significant crowds despite police pressure and arrests.

Hundreds were arrested by police across the country, including a score in distant Vladivostok.

Navalny is now regarded as the most prominent opposition figure in Russian Federation. He focuses on corruption issues and has attracted a wide following through savvy use of internet video.

The recent rallies were galvanized by a film released by Navalny in early March, which accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling vast personal wealth through a shadowy network of foundations.

Navalny was fined and jailed for 15 days for his role in the earlier March protests.

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