Moscow detains anti-Kremlin protesters

Monday, February 1, 2010

Boris Nemtsov, one of the detained.
Image: Лена Лебедева-Хоофт.

Despite calls from Amnesty International for the protest to be allowed to go ahead, riot police detained dozens of people at an anti-Kremlin march in central Moscow on Saturday. Over a hundred turned up to protest against what the activists call a long-running Kremlin campaign to suppress the right of peaceful protest, in which the protesters shouted "Down with Putin!" and "Shame!", before being herded en masse onto buses by riot police. Among the people detained were influential opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy Prime Minister and the leader of opposition group Solidarity. According to police spokesman, Viktor Biryukov, around three hundred campaigners turned up, of which 100 were detained.

Over two hundred policemen cordoned off the square before the rally began, utilizing thirty police vans. For half an hour, no-one was detained, the police shouting "Citizens, please clear the path. Don't block the pedestrians!". Authorities often block pro-Western groups such as Solidarity from protesting, although groups seen "more loyal" to the Kremlin are actively encouraged to hold rallies.

Another protest was organized in St. Petersburg, where the majority of a dozen protesters were arrested, some beaten with truncheons. Others were held in Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk and Yekaterinburg, which, according to Russian radio, were not shut down by police. Russian authorities have little tolerance of protests, often banning rallies, and placing the participants under arrest. This is the latest and largest of a series of protests, the most recent being in December. Another rally is scheduled for late March.