Moscow police detained hundreds of people at an anti-corruption protest on Sunday including Russia’s main opposition leader.
Thousands joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.
Kremlin-critic Alexei Navalny who organised the demonstrations was taken away by police. The authorities said the Moscow rally was unsanctioned.
In a tweet after his detention, Navalny said he was fine and urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration.
Navalny & hundreds arrested as #Russia is hit by largest public demonstrations the country has seen in years. https://t.co/O0xr6znERl pic.twitter.com/WNiZLSZGuw— RFE/RL (@RFERL) March 26, 2017
A human rights organisation “OVD Info“http://www.socialtech.org.uk/projects/ovd-info/ claimed at least 700 people were detained in the capital alone with hundreds more in other cities.
Many of the protesters wore trainers round their necks alluding to the shoes worn by Medvedev whom they accuse of amassing a huge fortune that far outstrips his official salary.
St Petersburg was one of a reported 99 cities planning protests according to Navalny, although most had not been given permission to go ahead. Moscow called them “an illegal provocation”.
Medvedev’s spokeswoman called the allegations against him “propaganda attacks unworthy of detailed comment”.
The protests, reckoned to be the biggest since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011/2012, come a year before a presidential election which Vladimir Putin is expected to contest, running for what would be a fourth term.
Opinion polls suggest the liberal opposition, which the anti-corruption activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny represents, have little chance of fielding a candidate capable of unseating Putin, who enjoys high ratings.