A human rights monitor says police arrested more than 1,000 people Saturday, including a leading opposition leader, during nationwide protests in Russia, held to denounce the upcoming inauguration of Vladimir Putin as president.
The OVD-Info group said it had received reports of at least 1,029 people being detained in 19 different cities. It said 475 of the detentions had taken place in Moscow.
Thousands of demonstrators crowded into Pushkin Square, where police in riot gear waded into the crowd and began grabbing demonstrators and leading them away. A helicopter hovered overhead to monitor the crowd.
The protests Saturday under the slogan “He is not our czar” were organized by Putin’s most prominent foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.
Police also detained Navalny at the demonstration in Moscow. Video showed officers struggling with the opposition leader in Pushkin Square and then carrying him by the legs and arms.
Elsewhere, protesters were seen clashing with police on a central avenue in St Petersburg. Video shot from a balcony of the building overlooking the avenue showed police pushing away protesters and protesters trying to building up barricades,
The unauthorized protest was part of a day of nationwide demonstrations, held to denounce Putin’s upcoming inauguration for a fourth term as president. Putin will be inaugurated Monday for a six-year term.
Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000.