Russian police detain Putin critic Navalny, scores of protesters held
KONFRONTASI-Baton-wielding riot police broke up an anti-government demonstration in Moscow on Monday and arrested scores of protesters after detaining Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as he tried to leave his home.
Several thousand protesters, including many young people, crowded central Moscow at Navalny's behest chanting "Russia without Putin" and "Russia will be free".
Navalny, who is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Putin in a presidential election next year, had called for mass protests in Moscow and other cities against what he says is a corrupt system of rule overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed those allegations and accused Navalny of trying irresponsibly to whip up unrest.
"Corruption is stealing our future," read one placard next to an image of a yellow duck, a reference to a duck house which Navalny said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev owned on a vast country estate, an allegation Medvedev says is "nonsense."
Reuters witnesses saw more than 100 people arrested in central Moscow. Dozens of protesters were also detained at a similar demonstration in St Petersburg, a Reuters witness said.
Russian state media ignored the protests.
The scale of the protests suggests Navalny has built on the success of a similar event in March, in which thousands took to the streets across Russia.
Those protests were the largest since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2012 and resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, putting rare domestic pressure on Putin, who is expected to run for and win re-election next year.
Authorities in Moscow said Monday's protest was illegal and drafted in hundreds of riot police who moved to detain people they regarded as trouble makers, loading them onto buses to be charged.
"I want to protest against corruption and the fact that the authorities are not fighting it," said Alexander, an 18-year-old student brandishing the Russian flag.
Dima, an 18-year-old florist, said he wanted Prime Minister Medvedev to return what he said were the politician's ill-gotten gains. Medvedev, a close Putin ally, flatly denies wrongdoing.
"I'm not afraid if I get detained," Dima said.
Moscow authorities had initially authorized a venue for the protest away from the city center.
But Navalny said on Sunday the authorities had pressured firms into refusing to supply him and his allies with sound and video equipment.
For that reason, he said he was unilaterally switching the venue to Tverskaya Street, Moscow's main avenue near the Kremlin. The General Prosecutor's Office had warned that a protest there would be illegal.
The area of Tsverskaya Street near where Navalny's supporters congregated was hosting an officially-organized festival, with actors re-enacting periods of Russian history. At one point, protesters shouting anti-Kremlin slogans mingled with people in historical costumes.
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