Police Crack Down on Tens of Thousands Anti-Putin Protesters

Russian Police officers detain opposition supporters during a rally in Moscow (AFP, Andrey Smirnov)

Police Crack Down on Tens of Thousands Anti-Putin Protesters

Clashes erupt as Russians protest against Putin

Russian protesters and opposition leaders were hauled away on Sunday after 'thousands of helmeted riot police' cracked down on anti-Putin rallies in Moscow and cities across Russia, beating protesters with batons and preventing them from apporoaching the Kremlin. Over 250 people including opposition leaders were arrested in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin is to return to the presidency tomorrow, as he exceeds the two term limit set by Russian law.

Putin is extending his 12-year reign in Russia, despite large protests throughout the year.

Today, at least 20,000 people protested in Moscow under banners and flags, chanting "Russia without Putin" and "Putin - thief".

Udaltsov, a leftist leader, was taken away as he tried to address the crowd from a stage and Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger, was dragged off after trying to organize a sit-in protest calling for Putin's inauguration to be scrapped, Reuters reports.

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Reuters: Clashes erupt as Russians protest against Putin

Russian riot police beat protesters with batons and hauled away dozens on Sunday after skirmishes broke out at a demonstration in Moscow against Vladimir Putin on the eve of his return to the presidency.

Opposition leaders Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Udaltsov were among those detained at the rally, at which police tried to push back protesters who advanced towards them holding metal crowd barriers, Reuters reporters at the rally said.

Police, forming a line to prevent protesters moving towards a bridge leading across the Moscow river to the Kremlin, struck several protesters on the head and the demonstrators then fought back with flagposts before the scuffles died down.

The violence came at the end of a day of protests in several cities against Putin, who will be sworn in for a third term as president on Monday at a ceremony inside the Kremlin at which the head of the Russian Orthodox Church will bless him.

Many of the protesters are angry that Putin is extending his 12-year domination of Russia, despite being undermined by large protests from December to March, and fear he will stifle political and economic reform in his six-year term.

"History shows that if one person rules for a long time, especially using the methods of a dictator, nothing good comes of it for the country," said an 85-year-old World War Two veteran in Moscow who gave his name only as Alexander.

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Agence France-Presse: Police, protesters clash on eve of Putin return

Russian riot police Sunday violently clashed with protesters at a rally on the eve of strongman Vladimir Putin's return for a third Kremlin term, arresting over 250 people including opposition leaders.

The clashes in central Moscow over the river from the Kremlin set an ominous tone ahead of Monday's glitzy inauguration ceremony where Putin will take oath for a third presidential term after his four-year stint as prime minister.

Those arrested included three key leaders of the nascent protest movement against Putin -- the anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, liberal leader Boris Nemtsov and ultra-left wing activist Sergei Udaltsov.

Police said they detained over 250 people after demonstrators threw stones and water bottles at officers and blamed the violence on opposition leaders who attempted to stage a sit-in protest in the middle of the crowd.

The event had been billed as a "March of Millions" along one of Moscow's main thoroughfares that was due to conclude at a square used for the first of several mass protests that erupted against Putin's dominant rule this winter. [...]

Thousands of helmeted riot police took control of the main bridge leading to the square and refused to let the protesters through. A tense standoff lasting more than an hour eventually led to a concerted push by protesters against police ranks.

The police responded by unleashing batons against dozens of people and pushing protesters to the ground before dragging them by their arms and legs to waiting police vans.

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