MOSCOW • Russian police detained 600 people in central Moscow during an opposition protest yesterday, independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported, after the authorities warned that the demonstration was illegal.
Among those detained was prominent activist Lyubov Sobol.
Police removed Ms Sobol from a taxi and bundled her into a van minutes before the start of what anti-Kremlin activists described as a peaceful walk to protest against the exclusion of their candidates from an election next month.
Soon after the start of the protest, a Reuters reporter saw several hundred people milling around at one of the designated protest points in central Moscow.
Minutes later, a line of riot police began to squeeze people out of the area.
OVD-Info said police had detained 600 people. Some were beaten with truncheons. Reuters reporters witnessed dozens of arrests.
A similar but authorised protest in St Petersburg was attended by up to 1,000 people, the police said.
NO OTHER CHOICE
I had no option left but to protest.
MR YEVGENY SNETKOV, a 61-year-old engineer, who said the brazen exclusion of opposition candidates from an election next month led him to join the protests.
The focus of protesters' anger is a prohibition on a number of opposition-minded candidates, some of whom are allies of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny, from taking part in the election next month for Moscow's city legislature.
That vote, though local, is seen as a dry run for a national parliamentary election in 2021.
The authorities say opposition candidates failed to collect enough genuine signatures to register.
The excluded candidates say that is a lie and insist on taking part in a contest they believe they could win.
"They (the authorities) are wiping their feet on us," said Elena, a student attending yesterday's protest.
Another attendee, Mr Yevgeny Snetkov, a 61-year-old engineer, described as brazen the way the authorities had prevented opposition candidates from running. "I had no option left but to protest," he said.
At a similar protest a week earlier, police detained more than 1,000 people, sometimes violently, in one of the biggest security operations of recent years that brought widespread international condemnation.
The authorities carried out a new round of detentions and home searches before yesterday's protest and opened criminal proceedings for what they term mass civil unrest, an offence that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail.