News24

Arrests in new anti-Putin demonstrations

2012-05-08 13:02

Moscow - Moscow police on Tuesday arrested two dozen people after the Russian opposition staged an unusual night-time sit-in close to the Kremlin against newly-inaugurated President Vladimir Putin.

The main protest movement leaders, anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny and ultra-leftist Sergei Udaltsov, were detained in the early morning but were later released and then headed off to lead a new demonstration in the city, their lawyer Nikolai Polozov wrote on Twitter.

An AFP correspondent said police arrested at least two dozen people as they broke up the sit-in in the Kitai Gorod district of central Moscow barely a kilometre from the Kremlin walls.

Putin was inaugurated on Monday for a historic third term as president of Russia where he faces a new challenge from the outburst of protests against his 12-year dominant rule.

Several hundred people had joined the sit-in overnight, making a point of not brandishing a single political slogan. They were not disturbed by police. By the morning 100 people were left but police then moved in to disperse them.

Spending the night in the open appears to be a new tactic by the opposition, whose more radical wing has called for civil disobedience to ensure their voice is heard.

Small-scale pickets

"We spent the night out here because it is the only way to show that we too have something to say," said student Nikita Safanov, aged 20.

After their release, Navalny and Udaltsov immediately went to the Chistye Prudi district in the east of the city centre where several dozen supporters were waiting for them to begin a new picket.

After Sunday's mass anti-Putin protest ended in violence and bickering between the opposition, Navalny and Udaltsov appear to be preparing to hold repeated small-scale pickets in a cat-and-mouse game with police.

"We all have the same strategy, we are always moving. No clashes with the police," Navalny told reporters at Chistye Prudi.

"They cannot arrest everyone. For the moment, we have no better plan and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow it will be the same. There is no point annoying the police."

Police have said they have made almost 750 arrests since Sunday in Moscow as opposition protestors defied a heavy riot police lockdown in the city.