Riot Police Break Up Anti-Putin Protests in Russia
Hundreds of people ran through the streets of Moscow on Sunday to escape heavily armed riot police who broke up a protest of Vladimir Putin’s return to power.
Demonstrators crying “Down with Putin!” and “Fascists!” overturned several metal detectors and threw rocks and bottles at riot police as tear gas wafted through the air on the eve of Putin’s inauguration.
“The whole point of the protest was not to allow a thief to enter the Kremlin, to try to stop the inauguration,” Slava Tigrov, a retail specialist in his 20s, said as he stood with a megaphone near a bridge leading to the Kremlin.
As many as 70,000 people had arrived for a government-sanctioned procession down central Moscow that ended at Bolotnaya Square, just across the bridge from the Kremlin.
The protesters wanted to denounce Putin’s inauguration, to be held Monday, but violent clashes broke out when police refused to let people in and out of the square or allow opposition leaders to address the crowd from a stage set up on the square.
“I came here like everyone else, to have a normal election. What we had was not a normal election,” said Andrei Zavadsky, a programmer and a member of the Libertarian Party whose face and head were bandaged and bloody.
Dozens of people, including 20 policemen, were injured. More than 450 people were arrested, including a number of journalists, Russian news agencies reported. One man died after falling from a balcony where he had climbed to take photographs, ITAR-Tass reported.
“The [government] wanted to have a celebration, but we ruined it for them,” opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said before he was arrested in front of the stage.