Hundreds of helmeted Russian riot police have dispersed a crowd of up to 300 anti-Putin protesters who took over a Moscow square for most of the day.
The impromptu rally had moved to the Chistiye Prudy square after police broke up a demonstration by hundreds of opposition activists who had spent the night outside the presidential administration offices to protest at Vladimir Putin’s return as Russia’s president.
Two prominent opposition leaders were detained by police in the early hours but later released. They then joined up with dozens of their supporters who had moved on to Chistiye Prudy, or Clean Ponds, where they vowed to continue the roving protest.
“If we are pushed away from here, we’ll move to other squares,” said Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of a leftist movement.
The cat-and-mouse game between protesters and police began yesterday, the day of Putin’s inauguration at a formal ceremony inside the Kremlin. Hundreds of activists tried to protest near Red Square and along the route Putin’s motorcade took to the Kremlin, but they were turned back or detained by thousands of riot police.
Police said they made dozens of arrests.
Today, police reported at least 30 detentions.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said “we are disturbed by images of police mistreatment of peaceful protesters, both during the protests and after detentions.”