Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

White House condemns arrests at Russian protests

White House condemns arrests at Russian protests

RUSSIA'S opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested yesterday before he could join thousands of demonstrators protesting against president Vladimir Putin. Large signs celebrating Russia's unspoiled nature and ethnic diversity were barely looked at by passersby as protesters sought refuge behind them from riot police. Vikings, Cossacks, World War II soldiers with rifles on their shoulders, people in uniforms of the Napoleonic War of 1812, medieval torture equipment, and sandbagged barricades greeted protesters on Tverskaya Street.

Police in Moscow used pepper spray on the protesters and sometimes pushed them back by beating them with batons.

Tens of thousands rallied in more than 100 Russian towns and cities on Monday, and hundreds were arrested.

In Moscow, thousands of angry protesters held an unsanctioned rally on Tverskaya, the capital's main street.

The opposition leader - who plans to run against Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election - said earlier they would go ahead regardless of whether the government allowed them or not.

The protests Monday were again focused on alleged corruption among senior officials and centered in particular on Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who Navalny has accused of amassing a property empire through sham charitable schemes.

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Alexander Fomenko, a 17-year-old student, also protested Monday.

Navalny was jailed for 15 days after the March protests.

Navalny, who was also arrested for organizing large anti-Putin protests in March, had called for national demonstrations on the holiday that marks Russia's formal emergence from the Soviet era in 1990. More than 1,000 people have been arrested across Russian Federation. "There is no intention to mop up everyone, but targeted professional work is under way in relation to those who are continuing to provoke the situation", commented the Moscow security department.

An opposition organizer for Navalny in Vladivostok on the Pacific coast was detained and fined for illegally organizing a rally, according to state news service RIA Novosti, which cited a regional lawmaker.

The protest comes as Russian Federation enters an election cycle, with a vote due next March expected to give Putin six more years in the Kremlin.

Navalny was taken to court Monday evening and sentenced to 30 days in jail shortly after midnight for repeated violations of the law on public gatherings. These protests, with the backing of Navalny, were directed against senior Kremlin officials and attracted tens of thousands of people in nearly 100 cities.

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After the change, Moscow police warned that "any provocative actions from the protesters' side will be considered a threat to public order and will be immediately suppressed".

The anger has spread beyond Medvedev, with many demonstrators chanting "Putin is a thief" within earshot of the City Hall that later dismissed the protests as an "overt provocation".

Twenty minutes later people were dragged along the ground or carried through the air, as the police snatched them out of the crowd even though people tightly surrounded those whom the police were trying to detain. Navalny had said the agitation would take place with or without their permission.

That same realization motivated Sergei Boyko, the head of Navalny's Novosibirsk office, to put his IT career on hold and get into politics.

Many came to the protests saying they were fed up with endemic corruption that seemed to begin at the Kremlin.

"I want changes", wrote Navalny. The protest was eventually dispersed after police charged repeatedly into the crowd, dragging demonstrators at random to waiting vans.

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