Russian police arrested more than 800 people in Moscow on Saturday in one of the biggest crackdowns of recent times against an increasingly defiant opposition decrying President Vladimir Putin’s tight grip on power.
The detentions came before and after a protest to demand that opposition members be allowed to run in a local election. Authorities had declared it illegal and sought to block participation, but several thousand people turned up anyway in one of the longest and most determined protests of recent years.
Chants of “Russia without Putin” and “Putin resign” echoed through central Moscow as guardsmen clad in riot gear beat back protesters with batons and roughly detained people.
At least one woman and a man appeared to have suffered serious head wounds.
Though the authorities have the resources to break up demonstrations, Saturday’s events showed how many activists and especially younger people are intent on pressing to open Russia’s tightly-choreographed political system to competition.
Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called for Saturday’s protest to persuade officials to allow opposition-minded candidates to run in a Sept. 8 vote.
Authorities say they were barred because they failed to collect sufficient genuine signatures in their support.
The opposition has no seats in parliament and is starved of air time on state TV where many Russians still get their news.