May 20, 2018

Russian opposition leader and activists held before Putin inauguration

07 May 2018, 12:32 | Rufus Hill

More than 1600 arrested in Russia amid anti-Putin protests

RUSSIA: Security operatives arrest opposition leader, activists before Putin's inauguration

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was galvanising a protest against incumbent President Putin, whose second inauguration ceremony will begin on Monday, when he was seized by police in Moscow.

The unauthorized rallies have continued in cities across Russian Federation, according to the BBC, with protesters shouting slogans including "Down with the Tsar!" and "Russia without Putin".

"We will force the authorities, made up of swindlers and thieves, to take into account the millions of citizens who did not vote for Putin", Navalny said beforehand.

Under the slogan "He's Not Our Tsar", Navalny, 41, had called on supporters to take to the streets ahead of Putin's May 7 inauguration to protest what Navalny says is Putin's autocratic rule.

The council said "279 of them were Muscovites and 379 - from other towns".

The opposition rallies came just six weeks before the World Cup kicks off in Russian Federation.

Some of the pro-Putin activists were dressed as Cossacks, a paramilitary class who served as tsarist cavalrymen in imperial Russian Federation.

Mr Navalny and his supporters have legitimate concerns about the direction President Putin is taking their country and should be allowed to voice them.

Russian officials, who require applications be filed and approved for rallies, did not issue a permit to Navalny for the protest in Pushkinskaya Square.

Furthermore, Ukraine and its global partners call for the immediate release of illegally detained persons and ensuring their rights to peaceful protest against tyranny and injustice. Images from the Moscow protest showed pro-Kremlin Cossacks beating protesters with leather whips.

Tough police action: The Russian human rights portal OVD-Info said almost 1,600 people were arrested at the nationwide demonstrations on Saturday and that police also used batons against protesters.

But polls show Putin still has the support of most Russians of all age groups, who see him as a guarantor of prosperity, stability and security in the face of an increasingly threatening West. "He has been doing it for 18 years and has done nothing good for it", said Moscow demonstrator Dmitry Nikitenko.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert posted on Twitter that the United States "condemns Russia's detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters and calls for their immediate release". "Leaders who are secure in their own legitimacy don't arrest their peaceful opponents for protesting". Putin has dismissed Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election on what he said was a trumped-up pretext, as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington. Putin has now been in power as president or prime minister for more than two decades, which some see as a unsafe monopoly.

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