Russian police on Saturday violently broke up an opposition rally in Saint Petersburg and also detained more than 60 people who were protesting against President Vladimir Putin on his birthday, according to AFP. Artyom Platov, spokesman for OVD-Info, a group that monitors politically motivated arrests, said at least 66 had been arrested in Russia’s second city and Putin’s hometown. A thousand protesters turned up in rainy Moscow and 3,000 more people took to the streets in Putin’s hometown, with protests also taking place in dozens of other cities.
Witnesses told that police violently broke up the rally in which some 3,000 people took part, throwing protesters into police vans, injuring several demonstrators and forcing some to run for cover. This violence was in contrary to the rally in Moscow where police largely showed restraint and allowed protesters to march in the city centre, according to AFP. The protests were called on by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to mark Putin’s 65th birthday and urge him to quit power and allow the opposition leader to run for president.
In 25 cities, a total of 235 people were detained over the course of the day, Platov said. Navalny has declared his willingness to run in a presidential election next March to unseat Putin. Despite his declaration, officials think he is not eligible to stand since he is serving a suspended sentence for fraud. On Monday, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail on charges of repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings.