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More than 600 protestors have been arrested in Moscow for an “unauthorized protest.” The group came together to demand far elections in Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported. People are upset that the elections commission said opposition candidates cannot take part in Moscow city authority elections planned for September 8, BBC reported.
According to Russia’s Ministry of Interior, roughly 1,500 people took place in the protest, although news agencies are reporting higher figures.
More than a thousand people protested at a similar rally in St. Petersburg, which was authorized by city officials.
Among those detained on Saturday was Lyubov Sobol, a female protest leader who has been on a hunger strike for the past three weeks.
By late evening in Moscow, some of those detained were released, similar to the previous protest. Many protest leaders, though, have been in jail since last week, with sentences up to 30 days. Investigators have also opened a criminal probe investigating those organizing mass civil unrest, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation into whether jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s anticorruption Foundation has laundered 1 billion rubles (about $15.3 million). Mr. Navalny’s organization has worked to expose official corruption, posting video investigations into top-level graft that have been viewed millions of times on social media.
There was no immediate response from the group to the allegations, but on Friday, Leonid Volkov, a close aide of Mr. Navalny, responded to speculation that such an investigation was imminent saying on Facebook that the allegations were baseless and accusing the authorities of trying to destroy the organization’s network.
An outspoken Kremlin critic, Mr. Navalny is currently serving 30 days behind bars for organizing unauthorized protests. Last weekend he was hospitalized with what he and his team suspect was poisoning, though officials have said his toxicology tests showed no trace of poison.
Russians have protested since mid-July, with the largest rally having around 20,000 participants. People are taking issue with the Russia raising the retirement age, government control over the Internet and landfill dumping in rural areas.
Retiree Galina Georgievna said she decided to protest because “the thievery, the corruption; people have had it up to here.”
“I feel sorry for young people. I’m already an elderly person, but I feel sorry for them,” she said. “…if you leave Moscow, I have no idea how people survive. There are fires in one place, floods in another. Pensions are small.”
One of the people arrested was Igor Kalyapin, a member of Vladimir Putin’s humanitarian commission, The New York Times reported. According to Kalyapin, he wasn’t part of the protest and Russia’s National Guard took him without any reason.
Fewer people took part in protests this weekend as opposed to last week. It’s believed to be because of the heavy police presence and use of force.
Here’s a look at what took place:
На Арбате в Москве полицейские жестко избивают лежащих на земле людей.
— Настоящее Время (@CurrentTimeTv) August 3, 2019
Жесткие задержания на Пушкинской pic.twitter.com/fn8ufry0C5
— Новая Газета (@novaya_gazeta) August 3, 2019
Today in Russia.
A man was arrested simply for holding the Russian flag at a protest.
Putin is cracking down as the people are rising up.
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) August 3, 2019