UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Russian police arrested some 1,400 people after gathering in Moscow on Saturday to demand free elections, according to a specialized monitoring observatory, the biggest crackdown on a demonstration in the country in years.
Some 3,500 people took part in an unauthorized demonstration on Saturday, according to official figures, denouncing the authorities’ ban on leading opposition candidates from running for local elections in Moscow.
The gathering came a week after the participation of 22 thousand people in a demonstration in which they called on the authorities to reverse their decision before the elections.
Police used batons against demonstrators in what they were trying to gather outside the municipal headquarters on Saturday, AFP correspondents said.
In a statement, the EU condemned the “disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrators”, which he said undermined “fundamental freedoms of expression and freedoms of assembly and association”.
Amnesty International also condemned what it said was excessive use of force by the police.
After a demonstration last week, investigators raided homes and headquarters of a number of candidates whose nominations were blocked. The opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalini, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for calling for new protests.
Some of the excluded candidates were arrested before and during the rally on Saturday. Including Elia Yashin, who called for another demonstration over the weekend.
OVD-Infoo, which monitors the protests, reported on Sunday that 1373 people had been arrested. It is the largest number of detainees since the major demonstrations in 2012, when tens of thousands against the return of President Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin after becoming prime minister for four years.
The new protests came as public anger mounted over a decline in the standard of living that has hurt Putin’s support.
The 45-seat Moscow parliament, which is controlled by the pro-Kremlin pro-Kremlin “united Russia”, is due to be held in September.
The party’s candidates have the support of the Kremlin, but independent candidates have been forced to go through many stages in order to run for the city.
After last week’s sit-ins, including sit-ins outside the local electoral commission’s headquarters, investigators said they would launch a criminal investigation into obstructing the work of election officials.
If found guilty, organizers of such sit-ins face up to five years’ imprisonment.
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