losangelesnewstoday.com May 20, 2018

RUSSIA: Security operatives arrest opposition leader, activists before Putin's inauguration

07 May 2018, 12:34 | Katrina Lee

Opposition supporters shout slogans during an unauthorized rally in Moscow

Opposition supporters rally across Russia Navalny detained at unsanctioned protest in Moscow

The protests against Putin, who many feel was re-elected through an unfair election process, were called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was himself detained at a demonstration in the capital, Moscow.

The European Union on Saturday condemned "police brutality and mass arrests" as Russian authorities responded to protests in some 90 cities ahead of the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin for what will be his fourth presidential term.

"If you think that he is not our Tsar, take to the streets of your cities", opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in a statement issued ahead of the protests. OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political repression, said late Saturday that at least 1,607 people had been detained at demonstrations in 20 Russian cities.

Police seized Navalny by the arms and legs and carried the thrashing activist from Moscow's Pushkin Square, where thousands were gathered for an unauthorised protest. Putin won re-election in March.

Ukraine and its worldwide partners call for the immediate release of illegally detained persons and ensuring their rights to peaceful protest.

Videos and photos emerging from Russian Federation show what appear to be large crowds assembled for the protests.

The activist was detained at the unauthorized rally in Moscow, police confirmed.

Pro-Putin counterprotestors have also reportedly taken to the streets.

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They chanted "Russia without Putin", "Putin is a thief" and "Out with the czar!"

"I have the feeling that people are gathering just to let off steam and that nothing will change", said the 31-year-old man called Alexander, who declined to give his surname. In the city of Yekaterinburg, around 1,500 km (900 miles) east of Moscow, a Reuters reporter saw over 1,000 people protesting and shouting anti-Putin slogans. His new presidential term will keep him in office until 2024, and Moscow is rife with speculation that the 65-year-old Putin will seek to remain in power for as long as he lives.

The authorities regard most of the protests as illegal, arguing that their time and place was not agreed with them beforehand.

Putin is due to be inaugurated on Monday in a Kremlin ceremony heavy on pomp and circumstance.

But polls show Putin still has the support of most Russians of all age groups, who see him as a guarantor of prosperity, stability and security in the face of an increasingly threatening West.

Putin has dismissed Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election on what he said was a trumped up pretext, as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington.

Critics like Navalny accuse Putin of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system, while the financial well-being of millions of Russians continues to deteriorate.

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