Riot policemen detain a journalist during a protest rally in St. Petersburg, on Sunday, where thousands crowded in for an unsanctioned protest against the Russian government.
In a rare show of force, thousands of Russians took to the streets of Moscow and other cities in the biggest anti-government protests in years.
In Moscow, police arrested hundreds of demonstrators, including prominent Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist, Alexei Navalny, who orchestrated the uprising.
The crowds gathered to protest government corruption, many calling for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s resignation.
Navalny had called for nationwide protests after publishing an investigation earlier this month alleging mass corruption charges against Medvedev, whose large fortune far exceeded his position’s salary.
At least 500 demonstrators were arrested in Moscow, reporter Charles Maynes tells NPR, among the tens of thousands who turned out nationwide — despite warnings from authorities that protesters would face fines and arrest for taking part in the illegal protest.
“There were reports of 2,000 people showing up in Nova Sibersk in Siberia, we had 10,000 in St. Petersburg, the estimates here in Moscow are about 20,000,” he says.
But Navalny saw little of the protest he organized. Maynes says “Riot police detained the opposition leader as soon as he arrived in downtown Moscow, with Navalny supporters briefly attempting to pry open the police van that held him,” in the capital’s iconic Pushkin Square.
A total of 17 employees with Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, were also arrested, the foundation’s director and press secretary Roman Rubanov tells Reuters. The AP cites sporadic scuffles, most notably, “a gray-haired man whom police dragged along the pavement.”
Russian state media, meanwhile, mostly ignored the day’s events, save for earlier cursory coverage, and no comments have been reported from top Russian politicians.