Moscow police detain 23 breaking up ‘occupy’ sit-in
Moscow police detained 23 people on Wednesday breaking up an eight-day occupy protest that sprung up on a scenic square following strongman Vladimir Putin's swearing in for a third Kremlin term.
Some of the activists immediately moved to another central Moscow location to continue a sit-in whose likes have not been seen in Russia since ex-KGB spy Putin’s political domination began in 1999.
“They put up no resistance. Everything passed fairly peacefully,” deputy district police chief Yury Zdorenko said in televised comments.
“Everything happened in accordance with the spirit of the law.”
The city said that some of those detained would be released after being issued a warning while others would be booked and potentially fined.
The small but daring action tested the limits to which the ruling elite was willing to put up with a form of dissent now popular in much of the West.
The rallies swelled to a few thousand as people finished work but shrank to just a few dozen activists overnight.
But they comprised the many facets of an untested protest movement that arose in the wake of disputed parliamentary polls in December and is now looking for energy with Putin’s controversial mandate officially underway.
The sit-in referred to itself as “Occupy Abay” — a reference to the massive statue of the 19th century Kazakh poet Abay Kunanbayuli that sits at the top of a leafy boulevard in Moscow’s upscale Chistye Prudy district.
Its mostly younger supporters tried to get round the city’s strict and at times arbitrarily enforced rules on holding protests by calling their action a mass public “stroll”.
A local Moscow court on Tuesday ordered the authorities to break up the rally because of noise and other complaints from residents.
Prominent activist Ilya Yashin said the group was now moving to a square that sits under a famous Stalin-era skyscraper near the Moscow zoo.
“There are already about 20 people here. Come and join us,” Yashin tweeted.