Key Putin foe ar­rested in Moscow dur­ing protests

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - An­drew Hig­gins ©2017 The New York Times

The Rus­sian MOSCOW — po­lice ar­rested hun­dreds of peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing in na­tion­wide anti-cor­rup­tion protests Sun­day, in­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, where thou­sands gathered for what ap­peared to be the big­gest demon­stra­tion in five years against Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The protest in the cap­i­tal took the form of a syn­chro­nized walk along a ma­jor shop­ping street to avoid a ban on un­sanc­tioned sta­tion­ary gath­er­ings. It co­in­cided with sim­i­lar ral­lies in 99 cities across the coun­try — from Vladi­vos­tok in the far east to Kalin­ingrad in the west — ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­nizer, Navalny’s anti-cor­rup­tion foun­da­tion. All but 17 of these, the foun­da­tion said, had been de­clared il­le­gal by the author­i­ties.

In Moscow, some pro­test­ers tried to block se­cu­rity vans with cars, and the author­i­ties de­ployed riot po­lice and sur­veil­lance he­li­copters. But they mostly avoided the bru­tal mea­sures used in neigh­bor­ing Be­larus on Satur­day against pro­test­ers in the cap­i­tal, Minsk, and other cities.

The po­lice in Be­larus beat and ar­rested hun­dreds of peo­ple who tried to gather for the lat­est in demon­stra­tions against Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

The protests in Rus­sia on Sun­day — nom­i­nally against cor­rup­tion but also a rare show of pub­lic de­fi­ance against Putin, who has found a fierce and en­dur­ing critic in Navalny— ap­peared to be the largest co­or­di­nated dis­play of pub­lic dis­sat­is­fac­tion since anti-Krem­lin demon­stra­tions in 2011 and 2012, af­ter an elec­tion that was tainted by fraud.

Pro­test­ers tried to pre­vent a po­lice van from tak­ing Navalny away and chanted: “This is our city. This is our city.” Oth­ers shouted, “Rus­sia with­out Putin,” and held up pieces of pa­per de­nounc­ing the Rus­sian pres­i­dent and his al­lies as thieves.

In a Twit­ter post, Navalny urged his fol­low­ers to con­tinue with the demon­stra­tion af­ter he was grabbed by po­lice of­fi­cers as he tried to join the crowds of mostly young pro­test­ers parad­ing along Tver­skaya Street in the cen­ter of Moscow.

“Guys, I’m okay,” he wrote. “No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tver­skaya. Our topic of the day is the fight against cor­rup­tion.”

The Moscow Po­lice De­part­ment said on its web­site that “around 500” peo­ple had been ar­rested in the city for tak­ing part in an “un­ap­proved pub­lic event.” OVD-info, a group that mon­i­tors ar­rests, said the num­ber of ar­rests in Moscow was at least 1,000.

EVGENY FELDMAN FOR ALEXEI NAVALNY’S CAM­PAIGN PHOTO VIA AP

Moscow po­lice de­tain Alexei Navalny, Rus­sia’s lead­ing op­po­si­tion fig­ure, on Sun­day. Navalny and his sup­port­ers held anti-cor­rup­tion demon­stra­tions through­out Rus­sia.

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