Russia detains more than 1,000 people in opposition crackdown

Photo: AFP

Russian police rounded up more than 1,000 people in Moscow on Saturday in one of the biggest crackdowns of recent time decrying President Vladimir Putin’s tight grip on power.

Police put participation at more than 3,500 people, of whom it said around 700 people were journalists and bloggers.

The detentions came around a protest to demand that opposition members be allowed to run in a local election.

Authorities had declared it illegal and sought to block participation, but several thousand people turned up anyway in one of the longest and most determined protests of recent years.

Chants of “Russia without Putin” and “Putin resign” echoed through central Moscow as guardsmen clad in riot gear beat back protesters with batons and roughly detained people.

Saturday’s events showed how activists and especially younger people remain intent on pressing to open Russia’s tightly-choreographed political system to competition.

Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called the protest to persuade officials to allow opposition-minded candidates to run in a Sept. 8 vote.

Authorities say they were barred because they failed to collect sufficient genuine signatures in their support.

Opinion polls in the past have shown support for Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption activist, only in the single digits. But backers note he won almost a third of the vote in a 2013 Moscow mayoral race and say his movement could build momentum in the Russian capital if allowed to compete fairly.

Though Putin’s approval rating is still high at well over 60 percent, it is lower than it used to be due to discontent over years of falling incomes. Last year, he won a landslide re-election and a new six-year term until 2024.

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