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Police Detain Opposition Activists After August 31 Moscow Protest

Novaya Gazeta journalist Ilya Azar was detained.
Novaya Gazeta journalist Ilya Azar was detained.

MOSCOW -- Law enforcement authorities detained three opposition activists in Moscow on September 2 for their participation in an unauthorized rally three days earlier, according to their social-media posts, colleagues, and local media reports.

Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, was taken to a police station in a Moscow suburb, the group’s spokeswoman said.

Sobol on August 31 described the arrests of protesters at previously unsanctioned rallies as "mayhem," blaming it on the city government.

Despite not being granted permission, several thousand Russians assembled on the streets of Moscow on August 31 in what organizers called a rally “against political repression” while demanding free elections to the local legislature on September 8.

Lyubov Sobol
Lyubov Sobol

Also detained was local legislator and Novaya Gazeta journalist Ilya Azar. He was home alone with his toddler of less than two years when police took him, he wrote on social media.

“They [the police] took me into a car with my house clothes and slippers on,” Azar wrote. “The fact that a child who is not two years old yet is left alone at home doesn’t bother them.”

Later his wife said in an interview that was posted on Azar’s Facebook timeline that when she came home, the door was left open and the child was home alone, but not harmed.

Another Navalny ally Nikolai Lyaskin was detained and later released on the same day. Traffic police stopped him until another car with different officers detained him, he said on social media.

The August 31 rally was the latest in a series of confrontations between liberal activists and Moscow city authorities -- and the Kremlin.

Demonstrators clapped and chanted "Russia Will Be Free!" and "Down With The Tsar!" as they walked along a leafy boulevard just a few kilometers north of the Kremlin.

Sobol led people chanting "Freedom For Political Prisoners."

"People of different ages have come out because everyone wants justice. They want Russia to be free and happy and to not drown in lawlessness and mayhem. We demand this and we will not back down," she told reporters.

Neither police nor independent watchdogs reported any arrests or detentions during the demonstration -- in contrast to other recent protests in which hundreds were detained, sometimes violently.

Police said about 750 people assembled in Moscow that day.

Several opposition leaders were detained ahead of the August 31 event, including opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who has struggled to register for the election. He was detained on August 28 immediately after he completed a fourth 10-day jail term on similar charges of attending unauthorized rallies.

With reporting by Media Zona, Dozhd TV, Reuters, and Ekho Moskvy radio