Reuters is reporting that thousands of Russians flocked to the streets in Moscow and other Russian cities on Monday to protest the corrupt practices of the Putin administration. They were met with riot police wielding batons and pepper spray.
Chants of “Russia without Putin” and “Russia will be free” resounded in the streets of central Moscow.
The protests, some of the largest since 2012, were in response to the call of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Navalny’s wife Yulia said police detained her husband when he tried to leave their home. About the same time he was taken away by the authorities, electricity to his office was cut, interrupting a live feed of the protests.
A vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, Navalny is mounting a campaign to wrest control of that country from Putin in the election to be held next year. It is doubtful he will succeed, and chances are, given the way Putin counters his enemies, he may not even be among the living. But that has not deterred him or his followers.
A blog post penned by Navalny last week echoed the sentiments seen in this country: “I want changes. I want to live in a modern, democratic state and I want our taxes to be converted into roads, schools and hospitals, not into yachts, palaces and vineyards.”
The 41 year-old attorney turned political activist posted a video on YouTube that chronicles the abuses of Putin crony Prime Minister Medvedev (pictured with Putin above) that has been viewed over 22 million times.
A similar protest held in March resulted in over 1,000 people being arrested. Rather than intimidating those who want to rid Russia of Putin and his oligarch cronies, it has served to embolden the resistance.
Lyubov Sobo, an ally of Navalny, posted on social media: “Neither mass detention nor criminal cases after March 26 (the date of the last protest) worked. People are not afraid.”
The protest on Monday was granted a permit for an area outside of the center of the city. Navalny changed the location to Tverskaya Street, the main avenue in Moscow near the Kremlin, despite warnings from the General Prosecutor’s Office that assembling on Tverskaya Street would be illegal.
Many of the protestors were young people.
A 19 year-old student named Roman said. “I’m sick of the Putin system. It’s been unchanged for the last 17 years. There is so much evidence that our officials are stealing with impunity.”
Saying he wanted Prime Minister Medvedev to return ill-gotten gains, 18 year-old Dima said, “I’m not afraid if I get detained.” Medvedev, a public servant, managed to amass a huge fortune, including several posh residences, yachts and vineyards.
The Interior Ministry put the number of protestors in Moscow at about 4,500. However, Reuters estimates the turnout in the low tens of thousands.
According to OVD-Info monitoring group, a non-profit organization, the number of people arrested in the Monday protest in Moscow was 730. 500 were detained in St. Petersburg.
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