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Moscow protest location changed, raising fear of arrests

Moscow protest location changed, raising fear of arrests

Reporters witnessed hundreds of protesters being detained, with one non-government organization tracking the demonstrations reporting that at least 600 were arrested in the capital and another 300 in St. Petersburg.

Police detained hundreds at anti-Kremlin protests across Russian Federation, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who had called on supporters to defy official refusals to permit the rallies.

Moscow police blocked part of the street with big dump trucks in a bid to block the movement of protesters. Authorities had given permission for the rally, but Navalny late Sunday called for the location to change to one of Moscow's main avenues. Despite this, many ordinary citizens gathered there.

Mr Navalny's wife Yulia said on Twitter that he was detained 30 minutes before a demo was due to start in Moscow on the Russia Day holiday. These protests, with the backing of Navalny, were directed against senior Kremlin officials and attracted tens of thousands of people in nearly 100 cities.

The demonstrators appeared to be mostly young people - those who were born or grew up during Putin's 17 years of leading Russian Federation. There was already a crowd outside the cordoned-off area separated by metal detector gates.

"Neither mass detentions nor criminal cases after March 26 (the last protest) worked", wrote Lyubov Sobol, a Navalny ally, on social media. I can assure you that this is not about Navalny. Over 700 people were arrested in Moscow alone, rights groups said.

We watched as the riot police pushed the protestors back - while snatch squads dove into the crowd to grab the organisers. 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. "What kind of country to we live in when I can't put a Russian flag on my shoulder?" The day's events included several military reenactments planned on Tverskaya to commemorate Russia's history.

Young people were dragged out because they were wearing - or holding - various symbols of this grass-roots resistance - like training shoes wrapped around their necks (a reference to Medvedev's fancy runners) and squishy rubber ducks (again, a reference to duck houses on ponds in properties used by Medvedev).

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"And what are they doing?"

"We are concerned for our children's future", Konstantin Kozlov, a lawyer who brought his teenage children to a rally told Financial Times.

Officials had set up barriers along Tverskaya Street, and were admitting members of the public only once they had passed through airport-style metal detectors. In St. Petersburg, authorities claimed 1,500 were present.

But people I spoke to said they knew the risk and still wanted their voices to be heard.

In Vladivostok, a rally went ahead with authorities' permission, but organizers also made a decision to change the venue, and without permission went to the square in front of the railway station where a festival of Cossack culture was under way.

Tens of thousands of people still took to the streets, and more than 1,500 were arrested. The event ended without incident. He was later detained by police and taken to a police station.

Protest organizers estimated 4,000 participants in the southwestern Siberian city of Omsk, and 2,000 in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, though the police estimates were less than half of those totals. The authorities characterized this move as a provocation and a call to unlawful assembly. "There is no intention to mop up everyone, but targeted professional work is under way in relation to those who are continuing to provoke the situation", commented the Moscow security department.

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