Hundreds of protestors rallied in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Saturday, demanding the release of those arrested over last year’s clashes with the police in capital’s Bolotnaya Square.
The rally led by several Russian opposition movements, including the Left Front, Solidarity and the December 5 Party, was held to draw the public’s attention to the so-called “Bolotnaya Square case,” in which 27 people are facing criminal charges for taking part in or organizing the May 6 riots in Moscow.
About 600 people gathered for the sanctioned opposition rally in central Moscow on Saturday, the police said. Of those, 100 were journalists and bloggers, they added.
The opposition, however, claimed some 1,500 attended the Moscow rally.
The protesters called arrests “political repression” and claimed the evidence against those detained was “forged.” The photos of the “political detainees” were displayed on a large stand and banners.
Among the notable members of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Ponomaryov, and the recently expelled Fair Russia party member Gennadiy Gudkov were sighted at the rally. None of them decided to give a speech.
Another 150 people attended a St. Petersburg rally and minor unsanctioned protests were also reported in several other Russian cities. The demonstrations took place peacefully, according to police, with no immediate reports of arrests being made.
This comes after the leftist opposition activist Konstantin Lebedev reportedly admitted his guilt on Friday in organizing mass disorders last year.
Other defendants of the “Bolotnaya Square case” will face charges ranging from inciting mass unrest to using violent force against law enforcement officials during the May 6 rally clashes, which took place in central Moscow ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration.
The anti-Putin May 6 rally on Bolotnaya Square, also known as the “March of Millions,” included some 8,000 people according to police, and from 50 to 120 thousand according to the opposition. The rally itself failed to start after violent clashes broke out between some of the protesters and the thousands-strong police force. The opposition lambasted police for purposefully impeding demonstrations, while the police accused protesters of an intentional provocation.
Dozens of protesters and 29 policemen were injured in proceedings, with over 400 people being detained. One accidental death of a photographer who fell from a balcony while taking photos of the rally was later confirmed.
Only one verdict has been delivered in the “Bolotnaya Square case” so far, sentencing Maksim Luzyanin to four-and-a-half years in jail. Of the 27 people charged, fifteen have been put in pretrial detention and another three, including radical opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, are currently under house arrest.