Thousands arrested in Russian demonstrations(Photo: Associated Press)

MOSCOW (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters held anti-corruption rallies across Russia on Monday in a new show of defiance by an opposition that the Kremlin had once dismissed as ineffectual and marginalized. Hundreds were arrested — including opposition leader and protest organizer Alexei Navalny, who was seized outside his Moscow residence while heading to the rally in the city center. The Moscow protest was the most prominent in a string of more than 100 rallies in cities and towns stretching through all 11 of Russia’s time zones — from the Pacific to the European enclave of Kaliningrad — with many denouncing President Vladimir Putin.

Opposition leader arrested

Police detain a protester during a demonstration in downtown Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 12, 2017. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, aiming to repeat the nationwide protests that rattled the Kremlin three months ago, has called for a last-minute location change for a Moscow demonstration that could provoke confrontations with police. Thousands of angry demonstrators thronged to Tverskaya Street, a main avenue in the capital, chanting «Down with the czar» and singing the Russian national anthem. The protests coincided with Russia Day, a national holiday that this year brought out historical re-enactors, some of them dressed in medieval costumes. At one point, the Moscow demonstration featured an unlikely scene of about 5,000 protesters rallying next to an enclosure with geese, a medieval catapult and bearded men in homemade tunics and carrying wooden shields. The re-enactors watched the rally before riot police broke up the crowd and randomly seized the protesters. Over 700 people were arrested in Moscow, while in St. Petersburg, about 500 were forced into police buses at an unsanctioned rally that drew up to 10,000 people.

People under thirty

Most of the Moscow protesters appeared to be under 30, although there was a sizeable number of middle-aged people and couples with children. With opposition sentiment strong or even growing, authorities appear to be seeking a strategy to undermine the opposition without provoking more animosity. Authorities allowed the unsanctioned rally to proceed, although riot police cut the crowd in half and began pushing the lines while grabbing some people from the crowd. Some of the arrests were violent with police using batons and dragging people along the street. Navalny, who faces a possible 15-day jail sentence on charges of disobeying police, rose to prominence for detailed open-source investigations of government corruption. That was a key issue Monday for protesters, particularly his report on vast wealth allegedly acquired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

«We are against the corruption that is costing the future of our young people,» said Moscow protester Maria Badyrova, a 33-year-old finance specialists who came to the rally with a Russian flag. Alexei Borsenko, a Vladivostok demonstrator who eluded a police attempt to detain him, cited Iceland’s prime minister stepping down in the fallout from the «Panama Papers» scandal, while «our prime minister is caught on such big corruption cases and he doesn’t go anywhere.»

«This is very strange,» Borsenko added. «It’s a dead end for the country’s development.» The popular anger has spread beyond Medvedev, with many demonstrators chanting «Putin is a thief» within earshot of the City Hall that later dismissed the protests as an «overt provocation.»Irina Titova in St. Petersburg contributed to this article from Associated Press.

Russian demonsstrations in St. Petersburg March 26th 2017(Photo: Associated Press)

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