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18 June 2017, 02:07 | Opal Carroll
Russian police detain Putin critic Navalny ahead of Moscow protest
The protest Monday was part of a day of demonstrations throughout Russian Federation spearheaded by Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who has emerged as Russia's most prominent opposition figure and who has announced he intends to run for president next year. Navalny himself was arrested on Monday before reaching the march in Moscow.
Moscow City Hall labelled the decision a "provocation" while the police warned that "any provocative actions by the protesters will be viewed as threat to public order and immediately thwarted".
The wave of protests called by Mr. Navalny coincides with public holiday, Russian Federation day, with Mr. Putin handing out awards and holding a reception in the Kremlin. While they did report on the arrest of Navalny, they remained silent on the protests in the streets.
Organizers in more than 200 cities across Russian Federation had filed requests to hold demonstrations Monday, trying to revive a popular opposition that had been somnolent since a violent crackdown in 2011 and 2012. Demonstrators managed to get into an area that was specifically banned to them, then the riot police showed up and tried to stop anyone else from joining the mass of protesters.
There is a risk of violence as Mr Navalny's supporters descend on Moscow city centre for an unauthorised protest.
The arrest of Navalny, 41, came as thousands of protesters clashed with police in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
A Moscow court found Navalny guilty on Monday of repeatedly breaking regulations on the organisation of demonstrations, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmish said on Twitter. In Moscow, thousands of angry protesters held an unsanctioned rally on Tverskaya, the capital's main street.
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Similar to the March protests, young people predominated in Monday's rally.
Turnout was hard to calculate as ordinary people mingled with those protesting, but thousands filled the Tverskaya Street area in Moscow, many waving Russian flags and banners.
Late Sunday night, the vociferous presidential hopeful announced a sudden change to his authorized rally against government corruption when he switched its location from a large avenue in the city's north to the very heart of Moscow, without the required permission. "Young people should be involved in politics, they should pressure the regime, force it to change".
Mr Putin is expected to seek another term in 2018, and Mr Navalny has already announced his intentions to run.
Photographs and videos posted on Twitter showed large numbers of police at Tverskaya Street, a main thoroughfare near the Kremlin.
Navalny's Fund for Fighting Corruption had been providing updates on protests throughout the country Monday.
Navalny, who had a green liquid thrown in his face in April, robbing him of some of his sight, said hundreds of people had attended demonstrations in Russia's Far East on Monday morning. In central Moscow, where authorities had organized historical re-enactments to celebrate the holiday, there were often surreal scenes as protesters scaled straw huts occupied by actors dressed as medieval Russian warriors. "I want to protest against corruption and the fact that the authorities are not fighting it", said Alexander, an 18-year-old student brandishing the Russian flag.Dima, an 18-year-old florist, said he wanted Prime Minister Medvedev to return what he said were the politician's ill-gotten gains.
As police detained demonstrators, hundreds of others shouted slogans including "Putin is a thief" and "Shame!" He was later detained by police and taken to a police station.
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