A crackdown on peaceful protests across Russian Federation in which hundreds of people were arrested and numerous others beaten by police demonstrates the authorities' utter contempt for fundamental human rights, Amnesty International said today. The opposition leader - who plans to run against Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election - said earlier they would go ahead regardless of whether the government allowed them or not.
Navalny's aides had been broadcasting about the lead-up to the protests from a Moscow studio, but authorities cut off power to the building just as the 41-year-old Navalny was being detained by police.
Many came to the protests saying they were fed up with endemic corruption that seemed to begin at the Kremlin. Demonstrators managed to get into an area that was specifically banned to them, then the riot police showed up and tried to stop anyone else from joining the mass of protesters.
A young demonstrator is apprehended by riot police during a demonstration in downtown Moscow Monday.
Mr. Navalny supporters were demonstrating across Russian Federation, with several arrested as police warned organisers against holding an unauthorised rally in Moscow.
After Navalny announced the switch, the Moscow prosecutor's office warned that "any attempts to hold an unauthorized event on Tversakaya Street" would be illegal and "law enforcement organs will be forced to take all necessary measures" to keep order. State news agency TASS confirmed Nalvany's arrest on Monday, but later claimed that the protests were in fact festive Russia Day celebrations. The government had not approved the location of the protest and said it was unlawful.
They had laid out a series of carefully constructed pavilions in the city centre, celebrating Russia's "historic victories through the ages".
Like the demonstrations in March, Monday's protest attracted a large number of young people, including schoolchildren, who had in the past not been major participants in the round of anti-Kremlin rallies in 2011-2012. "The United States will monitor this situation, and we call on the government of Russian Federation to immediately release all peaceful protesters". The first took place in about a hundred Russian cities on March 26 and was the country's largest political protest since 2011. "We are calling for all peaceful protesters swept up in these arrests to be immediately freed, and the right to hold peaceful rallies fully and genuinely respected".
Mr Navalny was earlier granted permission to hold a rally at Sakharova Avenue but changed the location - without permission - on the eve of the demonstration to Tverskaya Street, near the Kremlin. "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.
Organizers in over 200 cities had filed requests to hold demonstrations Monday, out of which almost 120 were granted and 50 were rejected. The protesters shouted "Putin is a thief", "Putin out" and "Russia without thieves". One protest in Vladimir, located 150 miles west of Moscow, drew a crowd that didn't look like much, but it still was a triumph.
In Moscow, Navalny set the stage for a confrontation with the police by insisting that demonstrators ignore the officially sanctioned venue and gather instead on Tverskaya Street, the main boulevard leading toward the Kremlin and Red Square.