Russian police detained 311 people in the centre of Moscow at the start of a rally marking the second weekend of unsanctioned mass protests in the Russian capital, according to independent legal-aid group OVD-Info.
Among the detained is opposition leader Lyubov Sobol. The online TV channel Dozhd broadcast her detention live as Sobol was getting into a taxi to the rally. Sobol has been on a hunger strike for three weeks, protesting the authorities’ decision to bar her, along with a dozen other opposition candidates, from running for the city council in early September.
The rallies come amid a growing sense of pessimism among Russia’s population. President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings are at the lowest since 2013 after five years of falling living standards.
The Moscow police unit estimated that about 350 people participated in the “unsanctioned events” as of 2:30pm local time, with 30 detained , according to a statement on the unit’s website.
Russia’s Investigative Committee this week opened a criminal case into the protests, calling them “mass unrests” and leaving participants vulnerable to sentences of up to eight years in prison and organisers facing as much as 15 years.
As a small concession, on Tuesday the Moscow election commission agreed to review the application of one rejected candidate, Sergei Mitrokhin who represents the liberal Yabloko party.