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Russians Vent Anger Over Presidential Vote
30 Jan 2018 EWR Online
A few dozen protesters detained in Moscow and St. Petersburg; larger numbers held in provincial cities. 29 January 2018

About 350 people were arrested at protests yesterday ahead of Russia’s presidential election, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was among those arrested on central Moscow’s Tverskaya Street. He was soon released but will have to appear in court at a later time, the BBC reports.

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated that around 4,700 people participated in the protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities, according to a blog post published on the website of the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Navalny called for the protests after a series of police raids on his regional offices earlier this month, and the Constitutional Court’s decision not to consider his complaint against the federal law that bars individuals with a criminal record from participating in presidential elections.

Incumbent President Vladimir Putin will face practically no serious challengers in the 18 March elections, which he is expected to win handily.

Navalny has called on his supporters to boycott the elections.

Although unlike in several cities, the protests were not given official permits in Moscow or St. Petersburg, those two cities saw the largest demonstrations. Surprisingly, the numbers arrested in the country’s two largest cities were relatively low, Meduza says.

According to OVD-Info, 16 people were arrested in Moscow and 19 in St. Petersburg, compared to 66 in Ufa and 65 in Volgograd.

• Police raided the Moscow office of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation the morning preceding the protests, Navalny said. On social media Navalny wrote that police cut through the door using a power saw. He posted a picture of the incident on his Twitter account. When asked, the Moscow police told CNN that they had “no information regarding the raids."

• Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic party and a candidate in the March elections, unexpectedly showed up at the protest in Moscow. He spoke to protesters, telling them that he was like them 30 years ago and that he had been arrested three times on the square where they were now standing. Demonstrators told him he should support them by relinquishing his bid for the presidency, Meduza reports.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans