Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
Entertaiment | By Lawrence Myers

Anti-Kremlin protesters fill Russian streets, Putin critic Navalny jailed

Anti-Kremlin protesters fill Russian streets, Putin critic Navalny jailed

The leading Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny has been detained by authorities on his way to a protest in Moscow, his wife has claimed, ahead of a day of anti-Kremlin protests across Russian Federation.

Russia's interior ministry says about 3,500 people attended the protest in the north-western city, and 500 were detained. Navalny was ordered jailed for 30 days for staging an unsanctioned protest. The protesters shouted "Putin is a thief", "Putin out" and "Russia without thieves".

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.

At first, Navalny's radical decision to urge thousands of supporters to march peacefully through central Moscow seemed misguided, illogical even. June 12 is Russia Day, a national holiday commemorating the 1990 declaration of sovereignty amid the Soviet Union's breakup. In less than an hour, police detained at least half of the protesters.

After Navalny's arrest was broadcast on social media networks, many protesters arrived in the city center not knowing what the next move would be without the main organizer there to lead the rally.

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Navalny, who is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Putin in an election next year, had called for mass protests in Moscow and other cities against official corruption.

Russian state media ignored the protests. Numerous protesters who followed him were young and male - but not all of them, by far. Russian Federation is now heading into an election period which culminates next March in a presidential vote expected to give Putin another six years in power.

Photographs and videos posted on Twitter showed large numbers of police at Tverskaya Street, a main thoroughfare near the Kremlin.

Mr. Navalny supporters were demonstrating across Russian Federation, with several arrested as police warned organisers against holding an unauthorised rally in Moscow.

The demonstrators appeared to be mostly young people - those who were born or grew up during Putin's 17 years of leading Russian Federation. Around 2,500 protesters participated in an anti-corruption demonstration In Chelyabinsk, according to police, and up to 2,000 people took part in an authorized rally in Ekaterinburg.

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Navalny has proven to be a strategic thinker compared to other opposition leaders, who often spent more time squabbling among themselves than trying to expand their base beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A video he made accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin ally, of living far beyond his means has garnered over 22 million online views to date.

Navalny's Fund for Fighting Corruption had been providing updates on protests throughout the country Monday. Medvedev, a close Putin ally, flatly denies wrongdoing.

The center of the Moscow protest is at Pushkin Square - and while NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says the crowd there is huge, she adds that it's also hard to ascertain how many people are there for Navalny's cause, and how many for the national holiday. "Russia is an authoritarian regime, and I want to change it into a Democracy", he said.

The protest eventually coincided with events held by the City Hall for Russia Day like the re-enactment of various eras in Russian history, from World War I trenches to a Renaissance fair and sword fighting. Navalny says the charges against him are politically motivated.

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Moscow police said Navalny would be charged with administrative offenses of resisting arrest and a second violation of demonstration organization rules. "I want to live in a modern democratic state and I want our taxes to be converted into roads, schools and hospitals, not into yachts, palaces and vineyards".

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