MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police cracked down fiercely Saturday on demonstrators in central Moscow, beating some people and arresting more than 1,000 who were protesting the exclusion of opposition candidates from the ballot for Moscow city council. Police also stormed into a TV station broadcasting the protest.
Police wrestled with protesters around the mayor’s office, sometimes charging into the crowd with their batons raised. State news agencies Tass and RIA-Novosti cited police as saying 1,074 were arrested over the course of the protests, which lasted more than seven hours.
The dispute comes as the Kremlin is struggling with how to deal with strongly opposing views in its sprawling capital of 12.6 million people.
Along with the arrests of the mostly young demonstrators, several opposition activists who wanted to run for the council were arrested throughout the city before the protest. Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for calling an unauthorized protest.
The protesters, who police said numbered about 3,500, shouted slogans including “Russia will be free!” and “Who are you beating?” One young woman was seen bleeding heavily after being struck on the head.
Helmeted police barged into Navalny’s video studio as it was conducting a YouTube broadcast of the protest and arrested program leader Vladimir Milonov. Police also searched Dozhd, an internet TV station that was covering the protest, and its editor-in-chief, Alexandra Perepelova, was ordered to undergo questioning at the Investigative Committee.
There was no immediate information on what charges the detainees might face.
Before the protest, several opposition members and aspiring candidates were detained throughout the city, including Ilya Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov and top Navalny associate Ivan Zhdanov.
Police presence was heavy at the mayor’s office on Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow’s main thoroughfares, with police trucks and buses parked in the building’s courtyard and other buses positioned nearby to take detainees away.
The decision by electoral authorities to bar some opposition candidates for having allegedly insufficient signatures on their nominating petitions already sparked several days of demonstrations even before Saturday.
The Moscow city council, which has 45 seats, is responsible for a very large municipal budget and is now controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its seats, which have a five-year-term, are up for election on September 8.