Opposition candidate among hundreds of protesters detained in Moscow

Protestors call for independent and opposition candidates to be added to council ballot

Police officers detain opposition politician, would-be candidate Lyubov Sobol  in  Moscow. Photograph:  Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

Police officers detain opposition politician, would-be candidate Lyubov Sobol in Moscow. Photograph: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

 

Protesters once again took to the streets of Moscow on Saturday, decrying the exclusion of some independent and opposition candidates for upcoming city council elections.

Police detained more than 600 protesters, a monitoring group said, a week after authorities arrested nearly 1,400 people at a similar event.

Lyubov Sobol, one of the excluded candidates and a driving figure of the current wave of protests, was among those detained. She was grabbed by police in central Moscow and hustled into a police van, loudly demanding to know why she was being held.

Law enforcement officers detain a participant in a rally calling for opposition candidates to be registered for elections to Moscow’s regional parliament. Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters
Law enforcement officers detain a participant in a rally calling for opposition candidates to be registered for elections to Moscow’s regional parliament. Photograph: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Demonstrators were aiming to hold a march along the Boulevard Ring, which skirts central Moscow and is a popular locale for people to walk around, despite repeated warnings that police would take active measures against a protest.

Helmeted riot police lined the route and started seizing demonstrators from a scattered crowd on Pushkin Square and pushing them back from another square further along the route.

The OVD-Info group, which monitors arrests, said at least 600 people had been detained.

Riot police officers detain a journalist during a rally urging fair elections at Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images
Riot police officers detain a journalist during a rally urging fair elections at Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Once a local, low-key affair, the September vote for Moscow’s city council is now emblematic of the division within Russian politics and the Kremlin’s ongoing struggles with how to deal with strongly opposing views in its sprawling capital of 12.6 million people.

In the past month, the issue has provoked a large outcry for a local election. On July 20th, about 20,000 people took part in a demonstration – the largest in the city in several years.

On Saturday, about 2,000 people attended another rally in St Petersburg supporting the Moscow protests, the local news site Fontanka.ru reported.

The Moscow city council, which has 45 seats, is responsible for a large municipal budget and is now controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its seats, which have a five-year-term, are up for grabs in the September 8th vote.

A woman at a rally in Moscow, with servicemen of the Russian National Guard. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images
A woman at a rally in Moscow, with servicemen of the Russian National Guard. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Also on Saturday, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced it was opening a criminal case against the Foundation for Fighting Corruption, headed by the Kremlin’s most prominent foe Alexei Navalny.

The committee said the organisation was suspected of receiving funding that had been criminally acquired.

Mr Navalny is serving 30 days in jail for calling last week’s protest. The head of the foundation also is jail in connection with that protest. – Associated Press, Reuters