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Demonstrators have clashed with police at a rally organized by the
opposition on Bolotnaya Square after several dozen protesters, including
opposition leaders, broke away from the crowd to stage a sit-down
Scores of demonstrators joined the group, creating a disturbance in
the process. Then, instead of proceeding to the sanctioned venue, some
demonstrators gathered on a nearby bridge.
One group of
protesters attempted to break through and head towards the Kremlin. A
few dozen demonstrators did manage to get through police lines, but the
cordon was soon restored.
As the mood of the crowd grew more
aggressive, some protesters began throwing stones and other missiles at
police. Clashes between security forces and the more radical
demonstrators then erupted in several locations near Bolotnaya Square.
police used batons to contain the crowd, a police spokesperson stressed
that security forces had not used tear-gas at the rally, although some
demonstrators in the crowd had had pepper-spray.
police had in their hands were fire extinguishers, which they used once
to douse a fire when provocateurs began setting fires,” she said.There
has also been a report of a Molotov cocktail being thrown by someone
in the crowd. Burning liquid splashed on a demonstrator, starting a
fire, which was immediately doused.Shortly afterwards, police
detained prominent opposition figures Sergey Udaltsov, Boris Nemtsov and
Aleksey Navalny as they tried to address demonstrators. They were
arrested for “provocation,” a police spokesman told Interfax.
The three have been charged with insubordination to authorities, a charge which carries a penalty of up to 15 days’ detention.
More than 400 people have been arrested for illegal actions in and around Bolotnaya Square, say police.
Twenty police officers were injured over the course of the demonstration, of whom three were taken to hospital.
officials also say seventeen demonstrators asked for medical
assistance. There was one accidental death during the rally when a
photographer fell off a balcony while trying to take a long shot of the
demonstration. The man died instantly.
The rally was shut down by police due to violations of rally regulations.
forces organized a special corridor through which people were able to
leave Bolotnaya Square. Police also addressed the crowd, urging
demonstrators to leave.
Provocations from some oppositionists
as well as police errors were the main reasons behind the clashes and
arrests on Bolotnaya, said Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir
He said that the responsibility for the situation lay
with those who began the sit-down strike, adding that it was nothing
other than “provocation.”
Whichever radical activists
triggered the violence, they apparently were prepared in advance.
Despite police screening, they managed to smuggle flares, knifes, metal
rods and other objects which they used to attack police.In one
incident before the clashes erupted, two people were detained while
trying to smuggle tents and several military-grade smoke bombs in a
The unrest during the opposition rally on Sunday is
in stark contrast to previous opposition rallies in Moscow, which until
now have been completely peaceful. The rallies started taking place in
December after the parliamentary elections.
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