Breaking news: largest protests in 5 years sweep Russia

Largest protests in 5 years sweep Russia, as hundreds are detained, and opposition leader’s campaign manager is investigated for extremism.

Thousands of people gathered in Moscow and other major Russian cities Sunday, heeding a call by opposition leader Alexei Navalny to protest against official corruption in what appeared to be some of the largest anti-government demonstrations in the last five years. Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation had called for the protests, which attracted crowds of hundreds or thousands in most sizeable Russian cities, from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the European heartland. In the Pacific coast port city of Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city's railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee. News reports and social media reported demonstrations in large cities throughout the country including Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. Navalny had called for protests in dozens of cities, from Vladivostok in the Far East to Moscow. Most of the planned protests in 99 cities were banned by authorities, but hundreds or thousands showed up at rallies anyway. Story in English


Navalny, who is campaigning for the presidency in next year’s elections despite doubts about whether he will be permitted to run, called for the protests after releasing a film that describes lavish estates allegedly owned Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The report claims that Medvedev controls a mansion near Moscow worth 5 billion rubles ($85 million), a winter home in the mountains near Russia's Krasnodar region, and another mansion in the Kursk region.

Hundreds of protesters were detained

While there were no independent estimates of overall turnout, Sunday’s rallies appeared to be the largest since 2012, when tens of thousands turned out against the Kremlin over allegations of widespread voter fraud. Web cameras in Moscow showed crowds of thousands of people gathering at several of central squares along Tverskaya Street. Because city authorities refused to grant a permit for the protest, organizers called on participants simply to turn out and walk. Scattered signs and anti-government chants were also heard. Story in English

Hundreds of protesters were detained across Russia, including more than 500 hundred in Moscow alone. This is more than during the infamous Bolotnaya Square protests of 2012 Story in Russian

Police detained Navalny and are investigating his chief of staff for extremism

Navalny was arrested as he arrived to join the rally in central Moscow. Protesters then tried to prevent a police van from taking him away. In a tweet after his detention, he urged fellow protesters to continue with the demonstration:

"Guys, I'm fine. No need to fight to get me out. Walk along Tverskaya [Moscow’s main street]. Our theme of the day is the fight against corruption." Story in English 

Police also detained the staff at Navalny’s Moscow office for live-streaming footage from Sunday’s nationwide protests “without a permit.” All employees at the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s office were taken to a local police station.The raid on Navalny’s office was part of an investigation into hate speech, banned in Russia under Article 282 of the criminal code — a controversial charge often levied against political dissidents. The suspect in the case is Leonid Volkov, who heads Navalny’s presidential campaign. Story in Russian

No word about the protests on Russia’s state television

The TV networks Channel One, Russia 1, Russia 24, NTV, and REN aired their ordinary entertainment programs on Sunday, without any news about the thousands of people protesting across the country. Story in Russian

Yours, Meduza