MAY 6, 2018
Protests against Vladimir Putin have taken place across Russia ahead of his inauguration for a fourth presidential term, with more than 1,200 people arrested.
Police removed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from a rally in Moscow’s Pushkin Square, carrying him off by his arms and legs.
Officers used batons against protesters, with many in the crowd chanting “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia will be free!”
Part of St Petersburg’s famous avenue Nevsky Prospekt was blocked off by police as a crowd of roughly 1,000 demonstrators marched through the city.
The country’s interior ministry said about half of the 1,200 arrests happened in Moscow, but monitoring group OVD-Info put the number at more than 1,600 across 20 cities.
Mr. Putin’s critics say he is more of a tsar than a democratic leader.
Mr. Navalny, who has been repeatedly detained and jailed for organizing protests, published a message ahead of the marches saying: “If you think that he is not our tsar, take to the streets of your cities.
“We will force the authorities, made up of swindlers and thieves, to reckon with the millions of citizens who did not vote for Putin.”
Mr. Navalny called for rallies in more than 90 towns and cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg.
A Twitter account supporting Mr. Navalny posted images from the protests, showing a stream of people waving Russian flags and carrying red balloons.
The authorities regard most of the protests as illegal, arguing that their time and place was not agreed with them beforehand.
One activist told a crowd in the city of Khabarovsk: “Putin has already been on his throne for 18 years! We’ve ended up in a dead end over these 18 years. I don’t want to put up with this!”
Mr Putin, 65, was re-elected in a landslide victory in March – extending his grip over the world’s largest country until 2024. He will be inaugurated on Monday.
He has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000.
His victory makes him the longest-lasting leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who ruled for nearly 30 years.
Mr Putin boasts an approval rating of around 80%. He is backed by state TV and the ruling party.
Supporters see him as a father-of-the-nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow’s global power.
Mr. Putin has dismissed Mr. Navalny, who was barred from running in the presidential election on what he said was a trumped-up pretext, as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington.