Russian opposition leader, hundreds arrested amid anti-Putin protests

We are ready for World Cup 2018’ Putin receives Russia 2018 FAN ID in Sochi

Russian police officers detain a protester during an unauthorised anti-Putin rally called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny on 5 May 2018 in Moscow.

Turnout at the rally in the Russian capital was about 1,500, according to police, but Reuters news agency estimated there were "several thousand" people at the event. He and a group of friends were eying the riot police, trying to stay away from the clashes.

Although attendance at Saturday's protests was smaller than the ones Navalny organized before Putin's last inauguration in 2012, the widespread nature of Saturday's many protests that challenge the belief of Putin supporters that Navalny's appeal is small and limited to the urban elite.

News reports and social media postings said protests had attracted hundreds or more in at least 10 cities in the Far East and Siberia.

OVD-Info, a rights organization that monitors detentions, said it had received reports of police detaining 1,575 people across Russian Federation, almost half of them in Moscow.

"They said that this city belongs to Putin".

On Pushkin square, people gathered with ribbons. However, in Moscow, the city said the declared meeting point had been barred off, while in St. Petersburg, a surprise rehearsal for a military parade had been scheduled.

In St. Petersburg, police blocked off a stretch of Nevsky Prospekt as a crowd of about 1,000 marched alongside the famend avenue.

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Ninety protests spanned 19 cities with participants chanting, "He is not our tsar". "Putin is not a tsar to be sitting (at the Kremlin) forever".

Navalny, who has been detained and jailed numerous times for organising similar protests, had managed to address his supporters briefly, saying he was glad they had shown up. "Detentions were conducted in a rough manner", said the monitor OVD-Info.

"Craven old man Putin thinks he is a tsar", Navalny said on Twitter ahead of the demonstrations. Putin has now been in power as president or prime minister for more than two decades, which some see as a risky monopoly.

Demonstrators chanted "Putin's fourth term should be in prison".

Criminal charges were brought against around 30 demonstrators and many of them were sentenced to prison terms of between 2.5 to 4.5 years.

He has effectively ruled Russian Federation since 2000, including a period of four years when he served as prime minister (2008-12).

The demonstrations are meant to "keep the [opposition] momentum going", Challands added, following Putin's recent re-election to office in a ballot Navalny was prevented from entering.

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