(PM) – The Russian police have arrested nearly 700 people, including opposition leaders and city council election candidates, on an unauthorized demonstration for fair elections in Moscow.
Member of the national guard and hundreds of riot police were deployed to the center of the capital, blockading streets near the planned site at city hall and rerouting demonstrators and bystanders.
According to the independent OVD-info group, the number of detained people was still growing after approximately 3,500 people gathered where vocal opposition leaders were forcefully taken into vans before the protest could start.
It was the second protest in the capital within a week after last Saturday’s authorized demonstration for free local elections, attended by roughly 20,000 people, and one of the largest demonstrations in Russia since the 2011-12 rallies against President Vladimir Putin’s re-election.
“The last time, I witnessed such repression and this many arrests, was seven years ago. Honestly, it’s scary,” said one demonstrator.
Yelena Rastovka, one of the protesters, said that she has been scared all of the time but enough is enough, continuing that if she stays at home, nothing will ever change.
Alexandra Parushina, a council member of the Khamovniki district, was taken to an ambulance covered with blood after she had been hit on the head by riot police.
Opposition figure who is also an anti-corruption lawyer Alexey Navalny has not been able to join the Saturday’s rally as he was arrested on Wednesday and given 30 days in jail, calling for the second round of action in front of the city hall.
Other young liberal leaders and candidates for the City Duma, the regional parliament, elections, such as Dmitry Gudkov and Lyubov Sobol were put into custody after they arrived on site.