Hundreds of protesters gathered in major Russian cities on Sunday to demonstrate against corruption and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The rallies mark the largest anti-government protests in Russia since 2012, when the protesters gathered to demonstrate against alleged voter fraud in the presidential election.
Police detained hundreds of protesters, including opposition leader and prominent blogger, Alexei Navalny, who remains one of the outspoken opponents of Putin’s regime.
“I’m happy that so many people came out (onto the streets) from the east (of the country) to Moscow,” Navalny said, moments before he was detained. Navalny was detained on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street together with his supporters.
The city authorities did not grant the permission for protests in central Moscow, and claim the rally as an ‘illegal provocation’.
The protests were sparked by allegation of corruption in the Russian government circles. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been accused of amassing a vast fortune, far larger than his official salary.
Anti-government rallies were held in major Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk.
According to police, around 7,000 to 8,000 people were on Tverskaya Street and surrounding areas in Moscow.
Some of the protesters in Moscow shouted ‘Putin is a thief’, but anti-riot police managed to drive protesters away from the Kremlin’s walls.
The spokesman for Russian Prime Minister has denied corruption allegation, calling them “propagandistic attacks” unworthy of detailed comment. He added that the protests are a part of Navalny’s pre-election posturing.
Presidential election in Russia are scheduled for next year, and Vladimir Putin is expected to run for a fourth term. However, Russian liberal opposition remains fragmented, and is unlikely to pose any significant challenge for Putin, who continues to enjoy high approval ratings.
The outbreak of crisis in Ukraine led to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and deterioration in Russia/West relations. In response to Kremlin’s actions in Crimea, Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia.
The combination of Western sanctions and low gas and oil prices have led to an economic crisis in Russia, which relies heavily on natural gas and oil exports.
Photograph: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov