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700 held for ‘illegal’ Russia protest

Police detain Opposition activist Lyubov Sobol before ‘peace walk’
Police officers detain prominent Opposition activist Lyubov Sobol on August 3, 2019.
Police officers detain prominent Opposition activist Lyubov Sobol on August 3, 2019.
(AP)

Reuters   |   Moscow   |   Published 03.08.19, 08:47 PM

Russian police on Saturday detained more than 700 people attending a protest in Moscow to demand free elections, including prominent activist Lyubov Sobol, after authorities warned the demonstration was illegal.

Police removed Sobol from a taxi and bundled her into a van minutes before the start of what anti-Kremlin activists described as a peaceful walk to protest against the exclusion of their candidates from an election next month.

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Soon after the start of the protest, a Reuters reporter saw several hundred people milling around at one of the designated protest points in central Moscow. Minutes later, a line of riot police began to squeeze people out of the area.

OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group, said police had detained 700 people, beating at least six with truncheons in the process. Reuters reporters witnessed dozens of arrests.

Police said they had detained 30 and that 350 had attended the protest. A similar but authorised protest in St Petersburg was attended by up to 1,000 people, they said.

The focus of protesters’ anger is a prohibition on a number of Opposition-minded candidates, some of whom are allies of jailed Opposition politician Alexei Navalny, from taking part in a September election for Moscow’s city legislature. That vote, though local, is seen as a dry run for a national parliamentary election in 2021.

Authorities say Opposition candidates failed to collect enough genuine signatures to register. The excluded candidates say that is a lie and insist on taking part in a contest they believe they could win. “They (the authorities) are wiping their feet on us,” said Elena, a student attending Saturday’s protest.

Another attendee, Yevgeny Snetkov, a 61-year-old engineer, described as brazen the way the authorities had prevented Opposition candidates from running. “I had no option left but to protest,” he said.

At a similar protest a week earlier, police detained more than 1,000 people, sometimes violently, in one of the biggest security operations of recent years that brought widespread international condemnation.

Authorities carried out a new round of detentions and home searches before Saturday's protest and opened criminal proceedings for what they term mass civil unrest, an offence which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail. 



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