May 25, 2013
Russian police crack down on anti-Putin protests
Hundreds of people demanded an end to Vladimir Putin's 12-year rule in protests in Russia's two largest cities on Tuesday, despite a crackdown by riot police and spoiling tactics by pro-Kremlin youth.
Police said they had detained more than 400 people in St Petersburg and Moscow as the protesters, emboldened by the prime minister's biggest election setback since he took power, tried to stage mass protests for the second successive day.
But police prevented many joining the Moscow rally and hundreds of pro-Putin youths in blue anoraks tried to spoil it, shouting "The people! Putin" to drown out their chants of "Russia without Putin" and "We want free elections!"
Two opposition figures, blogger Alexei Navalny and Ilya Yashin, were jailed for 15 days for their role in Monday's opposition protest, the biggest in Moscow for years.
Despite his sentence, and the fall in attendance at Tuesday's rally in Moscow, Yashin said: "We are not going to stop our struggle."
The protests are a further sign of pressure on Putin to make changes after his United Russia lost ground in a parliamentary election on Sunday, even though European monitors and the opposition say it was slanted in the ruling party's favour.
The election outcome highlighted growing unease with the 59-year-old leader as he plans to reclaim the presidency next year and pointed to a mood shift after years of political domination by the former KGB spy who has brooked little dissent and marginalised the liberal opposition.
"We want fair elections. Look at what they have done to our country, our Russia," said a man who gave his name only as Alexei as he was detained by riot police in Moscow.
"We pay your wages," he screamed as they threw him into a bus.
But Maxim Mishenko, 34, said he did not want Russia to follow the same violent path as Libya and Syria.
"I don't want the same thing to happen here as in Libya or Syria. There will be no Slavic spring here in Russia if I have anything to do with it," he said.