Russian police wrestled with demonstrators and arrested hundreds of people in central Moscow on Saturday at a protest demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to run for the Moscow city council. The dispute comes as the Kremlin is struggling with how to deal with strongly opposing views in its sprawling capital of 12.6 million people.
OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political arrests, said 520 people had been detained an hour after the protest started. Earlier, the city police department said the number was 295, according to state news agency Tass.
Lines of helmeted riot police tried to push back the protesters in Moscow, some of whom resisted physically. Demonstrators shouted slogans including “Russia will be free!”
The crowd appeared to number several thousand people, but there was no official estimate of its size. There was no immediate information on what charges the detainees might face.
Many videos and images from the protests appear to show riot police hit protesters with batons. Some demonstrators reporting injuries.
Какой ад pic.twitter.com/YgbzXohGlt
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Before the protest, several opposition members and aspiring candidates were detained throughout the city, including Ilya Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov and top Navalny associate Ivan Zhdanov.
Police presence was heavy at the mayor’s office on Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow’s main thoroughfares, with police trucks and buses parked in the building’s courtyard and other buses positioned nearby to take detainees away.
The decision by electoral authorities to bar some opposition candidates for having allegedly insufficient signatures on their nominating petitions already sparked several days of demonstrations even before Saturday.