Hundreds arrested as group urges new Russian revolution

Russian police search an opposition activist during a protest rally in central Moscow.
Russian police search an opposition activist during a protest rally in central Moscow. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (NYTIMES) - Police arrested more than 200 people in a roundup Sunday (Nov 5) that the local news media linked to an obscure right-wing movement that had been calling for a repeat of the Russian Revolution, timed near its 100th anniversary.

The movement, called Artpodgotovka, or Art Preparation, had agitated in online posts for followers to prepare for revolution, but had not been widely known or taken seriously before this weekend.

The tiny turnout did not seem to pose any real threat. The people who followed directions in the group's online posts and showed up at noon Sunday on Manezh Square, in the center of Moscow, milled about in seeming confusion before officers arrested them.

"It was a very strange picture," said Alexander Verkhovsky, director of Sova Centre, a non-governmental organization that monitors right-wing groups in Russia.

The movement's leader, Vyacheslav Maltsev, a video blogger based in France, had for months been posting YouTube videos calling on followers to revolt on Nov 5. He called it "revolution 2017." Nov 5 falls a day after a holiday in Russia known as Unity Day, a successor to the former Soviet celebration commemorating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Maltsev's planned event may have overlapped with the aftermath of protests by nationalists who have used Unity Day to stage marches against immigrants. Many nationalist activists were out on the streets over the weekend.

The timing created some initial confusion over whom police were detaining.

Several dozen protesters were detained at the nationalist march Saturday, on Unity Day, which was unrelated to Maltsev's call for revolt.

Verkhovsky, a longtime observer of nationalist groups, said many of the same people had turned out for both events.

Artpodgotovka is a nationalist and populist movement that has tried to emulate European far-right organisations. While the Kremlin has financed and is suspected of maintaining ties to European far-right parties and organisations, the arrests over the weekend underscored its scant tolerance for such groups at home.

Police reported 230 arrests in Moscow on Sunday, according to the Interfax news agency. Similar gatherings took place in other Russian cities.