Police violently dispersed demonstrations in Russian cities on Saturday, arresting opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and dozens of others. Rights activists have condemned the police for brutalizing protestors.
Demonstrators assemble monthly for democracy
Russian police arrested some 100 demonstrators Saturday in Moscow and St. Petersburg as they violently dispersed opposition rallies in the two cities.
Anti-Kremlin opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was taken into custody with dozens of other protestors who had gathered in Moscow's central Victory Square to exercise their right to freedom of assembly.
The democracy demonstration is regularly held on the 31st of the month in a bid to uphold the right to assemble, guaranteed by Article 31 of the Russian constitution. Authorities, however, had banned Saturday's protest, warning in advance that they would disband the event.
Despite the warnings, a reported 500 gathered in Moscow, chanting, "Away with the police state," "Shame, police," and "Freedom!" Many demonstrators also called for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down.
"Our goal is to get from the authorities respect of the Article 31 of the constitution," said Alexander Kurov, an activist with The Other Russia party in Vladivostok.
Protests intended to promote democracy
Dozens were taken into police custody
Mikhail Schneider, executive secretary of the Solidarity movement, told the Reuters news agency the protests were intended to promote democracy.
"We're here because the government has broken the constitution," he said. "Pay greater attention because people are lying to you about democracy in Russia."
The head of the leading Russian human rights organization Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, condemned police brutality at the demonstration in Moscow. Reuters reported, meanwhile, that several demonstrators in St. Petersburg were seen with bloody noses. Others had their heads beaten against police buses.
A simultaneous rally in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, meant to demonstrate solidarity with Russian protestors, was also blocked by police, with several activists detained.
Author: David Levitz (AP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler