AFPMOSCOW (AFP-Jiji) — Russian riot police detained dozens of people Saturday at a nationalist anti-Kremlin march on a public holiday known as the Day of National Unity.
Marchers at the event, which attracts nationalist protesters, shouted slogans including “Putin is a thief” and “freedom for political prisoners.”
Police in helmets and body armor moved in to seize activists, mostly young men, at the authorized event on Saturday afternoon in Lyublino, a suburb of southern Moscow.
The detentions come after police banned demonstrators from bringing in banners bearing slogans. Organizers then formally called off the march.
Some 32 people were detained, a law enforcement source told TASS state news agency, although police have not made an official announcement and others disputed the figure.
This year, police said around 200 people attended the annual march, while an AFP journalist put the number at 300.
“We are against the tyranny of [President Vladimir] Putin’s regime of occupation, which we don’t recognize at all,” said one young protester from a group called the Black Bloc, who gave his name only as Artyom.
The nationalist movement has split in recent years, with some backing the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea while others oppose Putin.
Since Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012, Russia has cracked down on nationalist leaders, many of whom are jailed or living in exile.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has espoused some nationalist views, was a speaker at previous Russian Marches, most recently attending one in 2011.
He coined the slogan “Putin is a thief” which others shouted at Saturday’s rally.
Navalny has announced he intends to stand for the presidency in 2018 but the authorities say he is ineligible due to a fraud conviction.
This year, nationalists held two separate authorized marches in Moscow due to disagreements between organizers.
At the second march in northwestern Moscow on Saturday afternoon, which police said had around 200 people, eight were detained, mainly for wearing masks over their faces, TV Dozhd independent television reported.