Russian police detain 1600 protesting Putin's fourth term

Russian police detain 1600 protesting Putin's fourth term

Thousands of people on Saturday marked President Vladimir Putin's upcoming fourth inauguration with street protests across Russian Federation, defying a heavy police presence that detained more than 1,600 demonstrators.

Rallies were expected to take place in 97 cities around Russian Federation, with a number of them unsanctioned by authorities - including the protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Video showed police carrying a struggling Navalny out of the square, holding him by the legs and arms.

Under the slogan "He's Not Our Tsar", Navalny, 41, had called on supporters to take to the streets ahead of Putin's May 7 inauguration to protest what Navalny says is Putin's autocratic rule.

"They are different people, with different views, but as a whole, they have thoughts and ideas about Russia's future that differ from that of Putin", Navalny said.

Scuffles also broke out between Navalny's supporters and pro-Kremlin activists who showed up in an apparent effort to sabotage the opposition demonstration.

That call was countered by mobs of Putin supporters who turned out in strength to rough up their idol's critics.

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Videos and photos emerging from Russian Federation show what appear to be large crowds assembled for the protests.

Tough police action: The Russian human rights portal OVD-Info said almost 1,600 people were arrested at the nationwide demonstrations on Saturday and that police also used batons against protesters.

Putin is due to be inaugurated on Monday in a Kremlin ceremony heavy on pomp.

Moscow police said about 300 people were detained in the capital, state news agencies said, and there was no official countrywide tally. Dozens of participants in the rallies have been arrested along with Navalny, with one source telling Russian pro-democracy group OVD-Info that as many as 50 arrests were made in the city of Krasnoyarsk.

Protesters packed Pushkin Square in the center of the city nevertheless, and they were met by columns of riot police who charged into the crowd to try to disperse it. With nearly 77 percent of the vote and more than 56 million votes, his March election win was his biggest ever and the largest by any post-Soviet Russian leader, something he and his allies say gave him an unequivocal mandate to govern. "He has been doing it for 18 years and has done nothing good for it", Moscow demonstrator Dmitry Nikitenko told the Associated Press. "Leaders who are secure in their own legitimacy don't arrest their peaceful opponents for protesting".

Putin has dismissed Navalny as a troublemaker bent on sowing chaos on behalf of Washington.

The 65-year-old has governed Russian Federation for 18 years, serving six years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012 and the rest as President.

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