MOSCOW – Russian police in combat equipment arrested hundreds of protesters on Saturday opposing the exclusion of opposition politicians from voting for an upcoming city council election. 19659002] According to police, around 3,500 people gathered near the city hall to support the unauthorized protest organized by prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Earlier this week, a Russian court sentenced Navalny to 30 days in jail for calling for a demonstration. A handful of other prominent opposition politicians were also arrested before the rally took place.
A surveillance group that is tracking political arrests in Russia told OVD info that more than 750 people were arrested during police rioters on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. In earlier mass arrests, many people were released after being held for several hours. The Moscow police had previously announced 295 arrests, reported Associated Press, but offered no final number.
The police also stormed a Navalny television studio broadcasting the protests live on YouTube , and captured Vladimir Milono, who was responsible for the program. Nawalny ran unsuccessfully in 2013 for the mayor of Moscow.
Some names of opposition politicians were removed from the ballot for September's parliamentary vote after election officials claimed they had not collected enough signatures to qualify. But their supporters say the government purposely excluded them from voting to maintain the Council's status quo. There are 45 seats in the Moscow City Council, which is currently controlled by a Kremlin-friendly party.
The city council struggle is a symbol of political tests for Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia, such as local elections and construction challenges. The results do not threaten Putin's influence on the country directly, but serve as rallying points for opposition groups that were constantly under pressure from the Kremlin.
Last Saturday, more than 22,000 people gathered at a protest rally in the downtown Moscow demonstration in years. This week, protesters sang "Russia will be free," the AP reported.
Photos of the scene show the police arresting protesters in protective clothing and beating them with truncheons.
The protests were only a tiny fraction of the 13 million people who live in the city, and it was common in much of the center on a mild August afternoon. But the recent protests may have been the biggest anti-government base in the Russian capital in recent years.
The main target of the protesters was Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, a close ally of Putin.
The protests are the latest sign that the Russians are increasingly voicing their frustration, even though their numbers are still far too small to directly question Putin's power. According to analysts, the demonstrations are driven by everything from economic stagnation and anger to government cuts and corruption to the rejection of Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule.
At the beginning of the summer, protesters took to the streets in Moscow to stand up for Ivan Golunov. An investigative journalist accused by the police of drug-related crime and released in public. Everywhere in Russia, people have protested loudly in recent months against local problems, from the planned construction of a cathedral in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg to the plan for a new landfill in the far north.
O & # 39; Grady reported from Washington.