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Russia Criticized For Detaining More Than 1,500 Anticorruption Protesters


Russian police detain a protester at an unauthorized opposition rally in central Moscow on June 12.
Russian police detain a protester at an unauthorized opposition rally in central Moscow on June 12.

The United States, the European Union, and human rights groups have condemned the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters across Russia.

An estimated 1,560 supporters of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny were detained during the June 12 anticorruption demonstrations in cities and towns nationwide, including 866 detained in Moscow and 548 detained in St. Petersburg.

OVD-Info, a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization that monitors police actions at protests, said most of the detainees had been released by early on June 13.

However, France's AFP news agency reported that "many people still awaited processing while others were shuttled to court for hearings" on June 13.

"We've left the station. They are taking us to Tverskoy district court," tweeted opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who was among those detained in Moscow.

Russia's Investigative Committee said one protester "sprayed tear gas into the eyes of a riot-police officer" and would be charged.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on June 13 criticized the actions of the demonstrators as "dangerous for the public" and defended police action against them.

"Their actions were dangerous for the public and the police take adequate measures against such individuals," Peskov told journalists in Moscow.

Navalny himself was detained before the unauthorized demonstration in the capital started, and sentenced to 30 days in prison for staging unsanctioned rallies.

Speaking to journalists in the Moscow courtroom where he was sentenced late on June 12, Navalny said the protests had been "good" and that "very many people came out" across a "wide geographic area."

"We have seen amazing things: in Saratov, 6,000 people came out, there was a huge rally in Penza," Navalny said. "There have been rallies in cities that haven't seen them for ages. For example, the previous protests in Norilsk happened [in the 1950s], when there was a prison uprising. So the geographical reach of the these protests is unmatched, and that was our primary goal. So we think it was a successful event."

The White House on June 12 called on Russia to release all of the demonstrators, saying their detention was "an affront to core democratic values."

But Peskov said Moscow would not listen to the calls from Washington to release detained protesters.

EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said the detention of peaceful demonstrators "threatens the fundamental freedoms of expression," while rights watchdog Amnesty International said the crackdown "demonstrates the authorities' utter contempt for fundamental human rights."

Meanwhile, Russia's presidential Council for Human Rights said on June 12 that police in Moscow acted "calmly" and in a "correct" way "despite attempts of teenage protesters to provoke them to violence."

However, witnesses and media reports said that police violently dispersed the protesters and in some cases detained activists were severely beaten in police vehicles.

Navalny called for the nationwide rallies to protest what he alleges is a system of corruption and cronyism presided over by President Vladimir Putin.

The opposition leader was hoping to build on momentum gained by a national anticorruption protest on March 26, which ended with more than 1,000 people detained in Moscow alone.

Navalny was detained amid those demonstrations -- the biggest antigovernment rallies since a wave of protests that he helped lead in 2011-12 -- and served 15 days of administrative detention in jail.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Current Time TV, and AFP
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