Russian police detain over 400 at anti-Putin protests, say monitors

:: Russian police detained more than 400 activists across the country on Sunday for holding unauthorized protests against President Vladimir Putin, a monitoring group said.

The demonstrations took place after radical opposition politician Vyacheslav Maltsev appealed on his website for supporters to hold protests across the country, calling for a “people’s revolution” to end “Putin’s tyranny.”

According to OVD-Info, a rights group that monitors detentions at Russian political protests, 412 arrests were made overall, with 376 in Moscow and 13 in Saint Petersburg.

It added that officers from the powerful Investigative Committee, which probes serious crime, were questioning detainees at various police stations.

Moscow police said previously they had detained 263 people “for breaches of public order.”

Many of those detained were carrying knives, knuckledusters and pistols that can fire rubber bullets, TASS state news agency reported.

An AFP photographer said police, some in helmets and bulletproof vests, picked up the protesters one by one in central Moscow close to the Kremlin. Police then detained activists on another central square, TASS reported.

A reporter for popular Echo of Moscow radio station, Andrei Yezhov, wrote on Twitter that he was detained, but later released without charge.

Meanwhile the Bolshoi theater, along with major Moscow shops and hotels, were evacuated after a series of bomb alerts in the Russian capital on Sunday, local news agencies reported.

In all 10,000 people were evacuated, the Interfax news agency reported.

The detentions came after police in Moscow on Saturday arrested dozens of people at an authorized nationalist anti-Kremlin march on a public holiday known as the Day of National Unity.

In recent months, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who wants to stand against Putin in polls next year, has also called on his supporters to hold unauthorized protests, resulting in large numbers of arrests.

In June, more than 1,500 Navalny supporters were detained during a day of demonstrations across the nation. Thousands previously turned out in March for the biggest protests in years against the Kremlin, with police saying around 500 people were detained in Moscow.

Previously a little-known figure, Maltsev ran for parliament last year as part of a coalition with former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov despite opposition from some liberals who accused him of anti-Semitism.

The bearded 53-year-old activist calls himself a “Russian nationalist” and in a video released Saturday urged his supporters to “say no to Putin’s regime.”

Maltsev comes from the regional city of Saratov but fled to Paris earlier this year. A Moscow court later issued a warrant for his arrest over accusations of making public calls for extremist activity.

His movement, Artpodgotovka — whose name refers to a military maneuver to deploy artillery — was banned by a court in October.

The FSB security service said Friday that it had detained a group of Artpodgotovka members who were planning “high-profile extremist actions” on November 4 and 5 including setting fire to government offices and attacking police.

It said officers confiscated 15 Molotov cocktails during detentions in Moscow and the surrounding region.

The security service said police also shut down groups of his supporters in five other cities and accused Maltsev of using the Internet for “propaganda of violent actions.”

Maltsev told the independent TV Dozhd (Rain) channel that the FSB had detained more than 100 of his supporters.

In a video statement last week, Navalny — who is currently campaigning in Siberia — accused the authorities of intimidating Maltsev and his supporters.

“People have a full right to gather, including on (November) the fifth,” Navalny said. “What the authorities are doing against Artpodgotovka and specifically Maltsev is an absolutely illegal outrage.”

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