MOSCOW (AFP) - Dozens of demonstrators were arrested during protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg on Sunday (Oct 28), calling for the release of 10 young Russians jailed for extremism and an "attempted coup d'etat".
In Saint Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, an AFP journalist saw 20 protesters arrested during the non-authorised demonstration which brought dozens of people into the city centre.
According to independent monitor OVD-Info, 18 people were arrested in Moscow and 40 in Saint Petersburg during Sunday's protests.
Some of those held were holding placards with messages saying, "Kremlin: give back your hostages" and accusing the FSB security service of fabricating the case against the 10 young people.
"I came here to support those arrested because they should be allowed to walk free. If we just stay on the Internet, nothing will change," 20-year-old protester Ekaterina Annenkova told AFP in Saint Petersburg.
In Moscow, some 200 people rallied in front of the FSB headquarters in Lubianka Square, where several people were arrested.
"I would never have believed that such a thing could happen to me and my child. And that means it could happen to anybody," said Ms Julia Pavlikova, the mother of a girl charged in the case.
"One morning, they knocked on the door and took away my child," she said.
In March, the 10 young people were arrested and accused of an "attempted coup d'etat" and the creation of an "extremist organisation" because of online conversations on the messaging app Telegram.
According to their lawyers, the FSB itself was involved in setting up the online group, whose stated goal was to "return Russia to its former greatness".
The case has become a symbol of the increasing crackdown on Internet users, often teenagers, and the posting of "extremist" material, even those who just share or "like" messages deemed offensive.
Similar protests also took place in other Russian cities, notably in Rostov in the south, according to OVD-Info.
In August, two of the accused, aged 17 and 19 at the time of their arrest, were released from prison and placed under house arrest for health reasons.