Miriam Elder (in Moscow) | Common Dreams
December 5 2011
Moscow riot police arrest opposition leaders Alexey Navalny and Ilya Yashin as crowds opposed to Vladimir Putin take to streets
Anger over a Russian election marred by widespread violations and the shadow of Vladimir Putin’s likely return to the presidency broke into violence late on Monday, as thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow in protest.
Russian riot police detain an protester in Moscow as crowds opposed to Vladimir Putin take to the streets and post-election violence breaks out. (Photograph: Reuters) Several thousand people, mainly young men, filled a park in central Moscow to listen to liberal opposition leaders call for Putin’s ousting in a meeting approved by city authorities. But when they attempted to march to Lubyanka, the headquarters of the feared Federal Security Service, they were met by baton-wielding riot police who beat some protesters over the head and dragged others into waiting lorries.
Hundreds appeared to be detained, including opposition leaders Alexey Navalny and Ilya Yashin, as well as several journalists. Police put the number of protesters at 2,000 but some Russian media said the number was as high as 8,000.
Anger has been steadily growing inside Russia since Putin, currently the prime minister, announced his intention to run for the presidency in a March 2012 vote. His United Russia party fared poorly in a parliamentary vote on Sunday, losing 77 seats in the Duma, or lower house.
Widespread examples of vote falsifications and violations – uploaded by the hundreds onto YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – have fed the anger.
International observers also questioned the results. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the elections were marred by “frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulations, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing”. Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said the report raised “serious concerns”.