The biggest anti-government protest since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011/2012 prompt a brutal and calculated police response.

  • Liberal opposition leader arrested during anti-corruption demonstration.
  • Turmoil in the heart of Moscow as riot police crack down on “illegal provocation”
  • Can anyone unseat Vladimir Putin?

A massive day of protest in Russia saw demonstrators clashing with police in Moscow as high profile critic of Putin Alexey Navalny was arrested and detained amid chaotic scenes.

Video footage shows riot police attacking protesters with batons amid a brutal crackdown on opposition to the Kremlin.

 

Similar demonstrations occurred across Russia on Sunday.

Hundreds of arrests were reported at the Moscow protest. Russian human rights group OVD-Info tweeted that more than 700 had been arrested.

Who is Alexey Navalny?

Rally organizer and opposition Liberal party leader Alexey Navalny was  surrounded by police, hauled in a truck around. Chaotic scenes ensued as hundreds of protesters crowded the police truck, trying to open its doors and chanting slogans.

Lawyer-turned- politician Navalny called the protests after publishing allegations that Medvedev had gained a huge illegal fortune from his position as prime minister.

He is also a political rival to Putin and an enemy of the Russian government, putting him at extreme risk.

Why are the Russians in revolt?

  • Critics assert that Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, has become extremely wealthy that “far outstrips” his official salary.
  • The protests are part of a campaign by anti-corruption crusaders called “He is not your Dimon,” taking the diminutive form of the Russian name ‘Dmitry’ to refer to Medvedev.
  • Medvedev’s spokeswoman responded to the allegations as “propagandistic attacks”.

The last two and a half years have been difficult for Medvedev. New sanctions by the West over Russia’s annexation of Crimea have dovetailed with a dip in the price of oil, plunging Russia into a recession.

“Illegal provocation”

The government’s response has been swift, describing the protests as “illegal provocation” and deploying riot police in force across Russia.

In the industrial Urals region, witnesses told Reuters that four people were arrested at a rally in Yekaterinburg.

In Yekaterinburg’s Labour Square posters reading “We are the authorities here” dotted the crowd as mobs of pro-Kremlin  nationalists threatened the peaceful crowd.

State media did not cover Sunday’s protests and has been largely complicit with the purge of Vladimir Putin’s rivals and enemies that have seen a surge of suspected political assassinations in the last year.

Who Can Defeat Putin?

Opinion polls suggest that the liberal opposition party, represented by Navalny, have little real chance of fielding a candidate capable of unseating Vladmir Putin, who enjoys high ratings among rural, nationalistic Russia.

The latest wave of protests come 1 year before a presidential election in which Vladimir Putin is expected to contest,

Running for what would be a 4th term, the incumbent Putin looks set to clinch power once again.

However, with public discontent with official corruption and a stalling economy affecting the rural nationalist power base that keeps Putin in power, there is a glimmer of hope for those who hope to see his grip loosen.

Liberal activist groups continue to grow as young urban Russians express their dissatisfaction with the current order. Whether they can enact real change in the volatile political atmosphere remains the largest challenge but one that many are starting to embrace.