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Dozens Detained In Nationwide Anti-Putin Protests In Russia

  • RFE/RL's Russian Service

MOSCOW -- Police detained dozens of people in several Russian cities as demonstrators joined a protest campaign urging Vladimir Putin not to run in the country's presidential election next year.

The April 29 protests came just three days after authorities moved to ban the organization spearheading the demonstrations: Open Russia, which was set up by former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Open Russia was defiant after the Prosecutor-General's office declared the organization to be "undesirable" and the demonstrations were both a gauge of how receptive Russians were to Open Russia's message -- and how far authorities would go to block them.

Though hundreds of people joined the protests nationwide, the turnout appeared to be smaller than another action last month that saw tens of thousands of people -- and many younger Russians -- demonstrating against corruption.

Police apprehended at least 30 people on April 29 in St. Petersburg, one of 32 cities across Russia taking part in the protest action involving hundreds of people who are often being met by equal numbers of riot police.

At least 16 people were reported detained in Kemerovo and campaign organizers were also taken into custody in the cities of Izhevsk and Gorno-Altaysk.

Photos on social media sites showed protesters in St. Petersburg being forcibly detained.

The demonstrations involved hundreds of people who attempted to present written appeals at city halls and presidential administration offices in their cities that call for Putin to retire from politics.

WATCH: Open Russia Activist Darya Kulakova Is Detained In Kazan (Natural Sound, No Subtitles)

The protest action is known as "We're Sick Of Him" and "Enough!"

Khodorkovsky declared the protests a success.

"People turned out in full accordance with the law. They had a complete right to bring their demands to the presidential administration buildings on their days off," he said in a video posted to YouTube.

​"We have long thought with colleagues how to offer people the opportunity to express themselves on the eve of Putin's acceptance or rejection of the decision to go for a fourth [presidential] term," said Khodorkovsky on April 29 in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

"We came up with a previously unused, slightly complicated format [of protest] when we suggested that people on an individual basis bring...to the administrative offices of the president in the cities where they are located, including in Moscow, personal appeals from citizens to the president [Vladimir Putin] explaining why they would not want...[him] to run for a fourth term in office."

Moscow officials have declared the protest campaign to be unauthorized and that police would deal with the participants in the event. ​

Organizers said the protest campaign was scheduled to take part in 32 cities, and that authorities had approved the demonstrations in 11 of those municipalities.

"In those cities in which a [protest] action was approved [by the authorities], it will be with banners, microphones, and so on," said Khodorkovsky, who lives in exile in Western Europe. "Where it is not approved, people will simply come individually with their appeals to the president."

Open Russia was declared "undesirable" by the Prosecutor-General's Office on April 26 and police raided the Moscow offices of the group the following day, confiscating leaflets to be handed out during the protest action.

Putin, who first served as president in 2000, is currently in his third term as president and was also prime minister from 2008 to 2012.

Once Russia's wealthiest tycoon, Khodorkovsky served 10 years in Russian jails and prisons after being convicted of tax evasion and other charges widely as politically motivated.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax​
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