dpa/GNA – A second weekend of unauthorized rallies across Russia to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny were under way on Sunday, with dozens of people reported detained in Moscow and elsewhere.
More than 30 people were taken into police custody by Sunday afternoon in Moscow, said human rights activists in the Russian capital, where the city centre was almost completely closed off.
Police in riot gear have been using fencing to block protesters from reaching a planned meeting place near the headquarters of the FSB security agency, according to a dpa reporter at the scene.
The police action has led organizers to point supporters to new meeting points. Hundreds had already gathered at one of them, the Krasnye Vorota underground station, where security forces met them.
From the station the demonstrators then began marching together and chanting “Russia without Putin,” “Freedom for political prisoners” and “Russia will be free.” Passing cars honked their horns in solidarity.
Authorities said there were 300 demonstrators at the protest in Moscow, defying authorities’ repeated warnings not to take part in the banned action.
In an effort to dampen the protests, authorities closed seven metro stations, and shops, cafes and restaurants will not be allowed to open.
Similar scenes were playing out in Russia’s second biggest city Saint Petersburg, where according to accounts much of the centre had been shut off to the public.
The first confrontations with police began in Russia’s Far East, where at least 250 people were detained. One hundred were detained in the major port of Vladivostock alone, the website OVD-Info reported.
Videos posted online showed demonstrators being hauled into buses by police.
Demonstrations were planned in more than 100 cities, Navalny’s team said.
Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to call for Navalny’s immediate release and to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rights activists estimate that 4,000 people were arrested and many were injured at the unprecedented protests.
They also took aim at Navalny’s associates in recent days, with Navalny’s brother Oleg, his associate Lyubov Sobol and other supporters being sentenced to two months of house arrest.
Navalny returned to Russia earlier this month after receiving treatment in Germany following a near-fatal assassination attempt with the nerve agent Novichok. He was immediately detained upon his arrival in Moscow and sentenced to pretrial detention.
A Russian court on Thursday confirmed his 30-day pretrial sentence, rejecting an appeal by the dissident’s lawyers to set him free.