The Daily Telegraph

Kremlin critic held as corruption protests sweep Russia

- By James Rothwell

RUSSIA’S opposition leader was among hundreds arrested in Moscow yesterday as anti-corruption protests swept across 80 towns and cities.

Thousands took part in what are believed to be the biggest demonstrat­ions in Russia since 2012, with the largest held in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Alexei Navalny, a campaigner who hopes to stand against Vladimir Putin in next year’s elections, was bundled into a police van yesterday morning as he approached a group of protesters in Moscow’s Pushkin Square.

An American journalist captured the incident on camera, only to be arrested himself and subsequent­ly charged with “participat­ion in [an] unsanction­ed protest”.

The protests were triggered by a film produced by Mr Navalny which claims that Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, has seized a collection of yachts, several mansions and a vineyard through questionab­le means.

Mr Medvedev is also alleged to have used a network of charity websites run by business associates to conceal his links to the deals.

It comes after hundreds of demonstrat­ors were also arrested in Belarus over the weekend during a protest in Minsk against a tax on the unemployed.

Around 200 demonstrat­ors were arrested in the Russian capital, according to Russian state media, adding that 25 had been detained in the eastern port city of Vladivosto­k.

Witnesses told Reuters that four people were also detained at a rally in Yekaterinb­urg in the industrial Urals region.

On Yekaterinb­urg’s Labour Square, protesters waved posters reading, “We are the authoritie­s here”, while nation- alists and supporters of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party looked on.

Some witnesses complained of heavy-handed tactics, with one image of the scenes in Moscow showing a young woman being restrained by at least five riot policemen.

Pictures and videos of the protesters posted on social media suggested a large number of them were youngsters, with some looking no older than 14 or 15.

Police estimated the size of the crowds in Moscow at around 7,000, though protesters said the actual numbers were far larger.

The string of protests yesterday marked the largest outpouring of anger against Vladimir Putin’s government since the 2011-12 demonstrat­ions which followed an election dogged by fraud claims.

“People are unhappy with the fact that there’s been no investigat­ion,” protester Ivan Gronstein told the Associated Press.

Some opposition supporters on Manezh Square in Moscow shouted

‘I want the authoritie­s to answer the claims in the Navalny film. Government­s would resign over this’

“Putin is a thief ” as tourists wandered nearby.

Denis Korneev, a 17-year-old film student, said: “I’ve come out (to protest) against corruption and want the authoritie­s to answer the accusation­s in the Navalny film.

“In many countries the government would have resigned over this.”

Several demonstrat­ors painted their faces green, a reference to an incident on March 20 when Mr Navalny had green dye thrown in his face by a progovernm­ent activist.

“Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don’t agree with the authoritie­s is obvious from what is going on in the country today,” Anna Ivanova, 19, told AP. “I am a bit scared.”

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 ??  ?? A woman is restrained by policemen in Moscow, and top right, a man is dragged away amid protests prompted by a film by campaigner Alexei Navalny, left, who was also arrested
A woman is restrained by policemen in Moscow, and top right, a man is dragged away amid protests prompted by a film by campaigner Alexei Navalny, left, who was also arrested
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