Moscow - Russian riot police detained 35 demonstrators on Wednesday, breaking up one Occupy-style sit-in at a Moscow park and threatening to disperse another in a crackdown on a protest movement against newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin.
Police raided the site of the week-old sit-in at a central Moscow park, citing a court order to end the protest. They ordered the 50 or so demonstrators to pick up their belongings, detained at least 15 and pushed the others into a nearby underground train station.
“People were ready to gather their stuff and move, but they did not give us time, they just started pushing people out,” said Alisa Obraztsova, a protester in her 20s.
Protesters moved to another central Moscow park where their numbers grew to several hundred before police surrounded the area and detained demonstrators who were handing out food and water.
Protesters resisted the police, who detained at least 20 of them, a Reuters witness said, including opposition leader Ilya Yashin. “Police created the provocation, having taken away our money and having arrested activists. It led to a conflict and our dispersal,” said Yashin on his Twitter blog.
The sit-in demonstrations are the latest acts of a protest movement founded late last year after numerous allegations of vote rigging in an election that gave the Kremlin-backed United Russia party a slim majority in parliament.
The movement has broadened to reflect anger at other issues, including the jailing of people the protesters say are political prisoners, and high-level corruption.
The Occupy-style demonstration at Chistiye Prudy began a week ago, after an opposition protest marred by violence and the ceremony at which Putin was inaugurated as president, a post he has held twice before. He was prime minister from 2008-12.
The size of the crowd at the sit-in varied from a few dozen to as many as 2 000.
A court cited complaints from residents and ordered police to break up the protest. City officials also complained about the demonstrators, saying they had caused 20 million roubles worth of damage to the park.
Police at Barrikadnaya, the park to which protesters moved after their early morning dispersal, said late on Wednesday that demonstrators could stay there overnight as long as they did not damage the lawn. - Reuters