May 26, 2018

European Union condemns Russian Federation protest arrests, police brutality

07 May 2018, 12:32 | Marta Robbins

Russian police detain a protester at a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin in Pushkin Square

Russian police detain a protester at a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin in Pushkin Square Moscow

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says he has been released from custody after he and thousands of other protesters were detained as part of nationwide protests ahead of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration for a fourth presidential term.

The question is whether those numbers would have been as high if Mr Navalny had accepted the Moscow authorities' offer to hold his protest at Sakharov Avenue.

But the protests also showed the determination of Navalny's sizable number of core supporters, many of them young, who are still willing to risk detention and police violence to make their voices heard. Putin won re-election in March.

Shoigu regularly appears next to Putin during state ceremonies, fishing trips or while tracking tigers in the Russian Far East.Internationally respected since his appointment as foreign minister in 2004, Sergei Lavrov has appeared exhausted in recent years, a particularly turbulent time for Russia's ties with the West.An inflexible negotiator, the 68-year-old continues to defend Moscow's position around the world, expressing himself nearly daily on the Ukrainian and Syrian crises.An old friend of Vladimir Putin, Igor Sechin heads the state-owned oil company Rosneft which he has transformed into a global giant in the face of mounting personal criticism.Often called Russia's second most powerful man, Sechin seems untouchable.

The activist was detained at the unauthorized rally in Moscow, police confirmed.

Protesters packed Pushkin Square in the center of the city nevertheless, and they were met by columns of riot police who charged into the crowd to try to disperse it.

Pavel Kuznetsov, a 72-year-old pensioner wearing a T-shirt depicting Putin wearing a crown with a line through it, said he and others had turned up in Moscow to protest against what he said was an election created to keep a dictator in power.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, has called Navalny a political charlatan.

The protests demonstrated that Navalny's opposition, although considered beleaguered by Russian officials and largely ignored by state-controlled television, has sizeable support in much of the country.

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Latest polls show the 65-year-old continues to enjoy an approval rating of over 80 percent, with many crediting him with having restored national pride and expanded Moscow's global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.

This time Putin will instead meet with volunteers who took part in his election campaign, the television channel said.

Putin critic Alexei Navalny had only just begun to speak when he was snatched from the stage in Moscow.

But while thousands took to the streets, the Kremlin was getting ready for Putin's inauguration on Monday in a ceremony that will likely be heavy on pomp and circumstance.

Putin has dismissed Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election on what he said was a trumped up pretext, as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington.

In 2012, Putin's black cort├Ęge raced through the deserted streets of Moscow on the way to his third Kremlin inauguration with authorities cordoning off roads, in what many saw as a major faux pas.

The app was banned by Russia's communication watchdog last month over an encryption dispute, prompting an outcry from many Russians who felt the government was infringing on the free Internet.

Anti-Kremlin protesters chanted "the fourth term - in prison" and "sick of you", in a reference to Putin, as a helicopter hovered overhead. "Away with the csar", he said.

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