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Police Detain Hundreds Of Antigovernment Protesters In Moscow, St. Petersburg


MOSCOW/ST. PETERSBURG -- Russian authorities have detained hundreds of people after nationalists gathered in central Moscow for an antigovernment rally coinciding with celebrations of Russia's National Unity Day.

The protesters are believed to be linked to self-exiled Kremlin critic Vyacheslav Maltsev, who called for a "people's revolution" to end President Vladimir Putin's rule.

OVD-Info, which monitors crackdowns on demonstrations, said 448 people were detained in St. Petersburg and at the unsanctioned demonstration on Moscow's Manezh Square by the Kremlin walls on November 5.

It said 339 were detained in Moscow, 21 in St. Petersburg, and the rest in rallies across Russia, including in Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Perm, and Rostov-on-Don.

OVD-Info said among those detained in Moscow were 49 minors.

The Interior Ministry had earlier said police detained 263 people in Moscow "for breaches of public order."

TASS news agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying many of those detained in Moscow were carrying knives, brass knuckles, and pistols that could fire rubber bullets.

Police picked up the protesters one by one close to the Kremlin, according to an AFP photographer.

Reuters reported that police detained a few dozen people on a Moscow street, although none of those detained had any posters or were chanting slogans.

A reporter for the radio station Ekho Moskvy, Andrei Yezhov, wrote on Twitter that he was detained and that most of those held were in their early 20s. He said he was was later released without charge.

On November 4, police detained dozens of nationalist demonstrators at an antigovernment rally in Moscow.

Maltsev had appealed on his website for supporters to hold protests across the country on the weekend.

Maltsev, who has described himself as a nationalist and anarchist, is the leader of the Artpodgotovka (Artillery Bombardment) movement.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on November 3 said it had detained several members of a "conspiratorial cell" of Artpodgotovka in the Moscow area, claiming they were plotting to trigger riots by attacking government buildings and police.

The RBK news agency cited an unidentified Interior Ministry source as saying that a spate of additional raids targeting Maltsev's group were carried out in Moscow and the surrounding area on early on November 4.

Maltsev fled Russia in July after authorities launched an investigation into his statements. He was charged in absentia in May with making public calls for extremist activities, while his movement Artpodgotovka was banned by a court in October.

Putin established National Unity Day in 2005, replacing Soviet-era celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution anniversary. It officially honors a Russian victory over Polish forces in 1612.

This year's celebrations came amid the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

With reporting by TASS and AFP
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