PICS: More than 700 arrested during opposition protests in Moscow
Moscow - Several hundred people have been arrested during demonstrations against alleged irregularities in the run-up to local polls in the Russian capital Moscow, protest organizers said Saturday.
Russian activists protested outside the Moscow mayor's office, shouting "you are a disgrace for Russia," after several opposition candidates were controversially rejected from the ballot for upcoming city council elections.
Civil rights blog OWD-Info said more than 700 protesters had been detained. Police could be seen arresting many people and placing them in police vehicles around the town hall building. Dpa reporters at the protests also witnessed some injured demonstrators.
Police had previously warned of a crackdown on the rally, which had not been authorized by city authorities. According to police, some 3,500 participated in the protest and 300 people were arrested. Many had travelled to Moscow from other cities.
Police had said they would "take every measure needed" to "fend off any breach of the public order," state news agency TASS reported.
During the rally, police closed off access to the town hall with cars and buses and conducted ID checks on many protesters. Some of the detained were released again by Saturday evening.
One protester, who spoke to dpa but wished to remain anonymous, said: "What is happening here is illegal. Politics is breaking our rights."
The protesters are demanding that independent candidates be allowed on the ballot for the city elections on September 8. A total of 57 candidates have been rejected from the ballot, including prominent government critics Ilya Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov and Lyubov Sobol.
Gubkov, Sobol and Yashin were arrested on their way to the protest.
The electoral commission registered 233 candidates to compete for the 45 seats in Moscow's city council.
The electoral commission has said the documents handed in by the rejected candidates had been flagged as fake, as they included mistakes such as missing letters or fake signatures from supporters.
The rejected politicians have called these claims absurd and said their documents had been manipulated.
One protester who gave her name as Natalya said she was afraid of being arrested, but added: "I am more afraid of the future: that cheating like this becomes the norm."
Gudkov, the opposition politician, told radio Echo Moskvy that they had been banned so that they would not take votes away from the victory of the ruling United Russia party.
The ruling party has been slumping in the polls recently, deemed responsible for the sluggish economy. United Russia pushed through a controversial pensions reform, while wages and living standards are down.
Last weekend thousands of demonstrators, including protest leader Alexei Navalny, attended a similar rally in central Moscow.
Navalny was arrested a few days later on a misdemeanour charge of organizing an unauthorized public gathering and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
"It's obvious they are arresting me for calling the protest on the 27th," Navalny said in a video taken while in custody. "Because they are arresting me, I, of course, ask you to come out to the protest."
Navalny came in second in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, with about a quarter of the official vote count. He has been repeatedly detained for organizing rallies without state approval.
The last time Moscow's authorities moved this harshly against protesters was in June. More than 400 people were arrested when they marched to show their support for investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, who had been arrested on spurious grounds.dpa