Anti-Putin leader Alexei Navalny one of 1600 arrested

RUSSIA: Security operatives arrest opposition leader, activists before Putin's inauguration
EU condemns Russia protest arrests, police brutality

07 May, 2018

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says he has been released from custody after he and thousands of other protesters were detained as part of nationwide protests ahead of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration for a fourth presidential term.

Navalny had called for demonstrations in more than 90 towns and cities across Russian Federation against what he says is Putin's autocratic, tsar-like rule.

In a tweet, Navalny said authorities wrote him up for organizing a rally and resisting police.

Police seized Navalny by the arms and legs and carried the thrashing activist from Moscow's Pushkin Square, where thousands were gathered for an unauthorised protest.

Putin won a landslide re-election victory in March, extending his grip over Russian Federation for six more years until 2024, making him the longest-lasting leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin who ruled for almost 30 years.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said it was hard to tell exactly how many people had shown up at the protests due to different estimations from police and protesters themselves.

Videos and photos emerging from Russian Federation show what appear to be large crowds assembled for the protests.

Moscow police said about 300 people were detained in the capital, state news agencies said, and there was no official countrywide tally.

Cossacks have acted as an auxiliary police force in some cities, regularly undertaking street patrols on the lookout for illegal immigrants.

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They chanted "Russia without Putin", "Putin is a thief" and "Out with the czar!"

Of them, more than 700 were detained in Moscow and more than 230 in second city Saint Petersburg.

The opposition rallies came just six weeks before the World Cup kicks off in Russian Federation.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, has called Navalny a political charlatan.

He even has the power to remove ministers, such as the former economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev who opposed Rosneft's resale of oil company Bashneft.Ulyukayev was arrested previous year at Rosneft's headquarters, caught accepting a bribe that he said was a setup.

The rallies were in protest of Putin's inauguration Monday. Though multiple candidates did nominally oppose Putin in the election, Navalny has said only those "who don't pose the slightest threat" to Putin were allowed to run.

The rally in Moscow brought back memories of violent clashes in 2012 - also ahead of Putin's inauguration. The office then warned the protesters that other venues where they were planning to march were unauthorized.

Protesters chanted slogans against Putin's government as they launched paper planes - a reference to the app's logo. "I won't take it", Navalny yelled out to the excited crowd.

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