Police have detained a number of opposition activists, including blogger Aleksey Navalny and Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov, after protesters staged nocturnal rallies in central Moscow.
The rallies were organized by Aleksey Navalny, who called on his supporters on Monday night via Twitter to come to central Moscow to take part in a “popular promenade” to “fight for a better future.”
Activists gathered in the Kitai-Gorod area of central Moscow, bringing along warm clothing, tea and cots. Among them was Sergey Udaltsov, another prominent opposition leader.
Udaltsov stated that the aim of the “promenade” was to protest the formation of the new government. At some point Udaltsov was reportedly assaulted by an unknown man, who hit him in the face. After the incident Navalny called on supporters to refrain from provocations and announced the new slogan: “We are just walking.”
At 3 am police began to address the demonstrators through megaphones, telling them to disperse and leave the area. Participants in the “popular promenade” then tried to move to another area, but eventually decided to return after their way was blocked by the authorities.
Police then arrested Udaltsov and Navalny, along with three other activists. Udaltsov reported that he and the others were taken to a police station. At the same time, Navalny urged supporters to select a coordinator for their rallies via Twitter. Ilya Ponomarev, another leftist opposition activist and a Duma deputy for the Fair Russia party, then reportedly arrived at the scene, thanked participants for their nightly stand and called on them to act within the boundaries of the law.
There are conflicting reports on the exact number of activists currently present in central Moscow. Udaltsov reported in his tweet that there were around 500 people, while RT producer Lida Vasilevskaya estimated that there were up to 1000 people. There were other reports of up to 3,000 people being at the scene.
Udaltsov and Navalny, along with other opposition leaders, were detained on Sunday after protesters clashed with the police during the “March of the Millions” in another area of central Moscow. Both received a fine of 1000 roubles but were soon released.