Thousands Arrested in Protest against Putin

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says he has been released from custody after he and thousands of other protesters were detained as part of nationwide protests ahead of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration for a fourth presidential term.

Maxim Shevchenko, a member of the Kremlin's human rights council, called for an urgent session of the council to discuss the use of force by Cossacks against protesters in Moscow and other cities.

Police grabbed Navalny, 41, soon after he showed up at the rally, as some shouted "Shame" in Ukrainian, a famous slogan of the Kiev uprising that ousted a Kremlin-backed regime in 2014.

Navalny mentioned Sunday on Twitter that he was released after being detained on Moscow's Pushkin Square on Saturday.

Putin won a landslide re-election victory in March, extending his grip over the world's largest country at least until 2024, making him the longest-lasting leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin who ruled for almost 30 years. Police said the crowd numbered some 1,500 people, but officials routinely downplay the size of opposition protests in Russian Federation.

Moscow police said about 300 people were detained in the capital, state news agencies said, and there was no official countrywide tally.

A total of over 1,200 people were taken to police stations in the Russian capital.

"They are different people, with different views, but as a whole, they have thoughts and ideas about Russia's future that differ from that of Putin", Navalny said.

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"Detentions and arrests of more than 1,600 peaceful citizens is a further proof of fear of the regime and the shameful state policy of suppressing human rights and fundamental freedoms, attempts to stamp out any dissent in Russian Federation".

Mr Navalny and his supporters have legitimate concerns about the direction President Putin is taking their country and should be allowed to voice them.

This time Putin will instead meet with volunteers who took part in his election campaign, the television channel said.

Putin has dismissed Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election on what he said was a trumped up pretext, as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington. Critics like Navalny accuse Putin of overseeing a corrupt authoritarian system and of annexing Ukraine's Crimea illegally in 2014, a move that isolated Russian Federation internationally.

He is due to be inaugurated on Monday in a Kremlin ceremony heavy on pomp and circumstance.

When police tried to stop the unsanctioned march, protesters pelted them with eggs and water bottles, an AFP reporter said.

The ban was enforced after app developers refused to comply with a court order to grant state security services access to its users' encrypted messages for security purposes. "Away with the csar", he said.

  • Megan Austin