MOSCOW — Moscow police arrested about 400 people Wednesday, including the country’s main opposition leader, during a street protest against abusive police tactics.
At an event where the outcome, mass arrests, seemed only to confirm the protesters’ complaints, riot police dragged demonstrators from the crowd seemingly at random and arrested news photographers and reporters.
Police said more than 200 protesters had been detained. OVD Info, an independent group monitoring arrests, said more than 400 had been arrested. Among them was Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader.
Organizers had called the protest to support a Russian journalist, Ivan Golunov, whom supporters say police had framed on drug charges last week. Pictures produced by police that seemed to show a drug lab in the reporter’s apartment had been faked. In a rare about-face, authorities released Golunov on Tuesday, acknowledged that there was no evidence to support the charges, and opened an investigation into the police who had detained him.
That seemingly met the demands of the protest organizers. But several thousand people turned up anyway, saying the reporter’s release was just a ruse to defuse a protest or that police abuse was a problem wider than just his case.
The arrests Wednesday “are a perfect example of the cruel repression that brought protesters to the streets in the first place,” Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Amnesty International’s Eastern European and Central Asia Office, said in a statement.
In the crowd, the perception that Russian police plant drugs on dissidents was widespread. It is a new form of political repression, participants said.
Tatyana Malshava, 40, who works in sales in a public-relations company, said she had come to protest police abuse of power such as fabricating evidence, even if Golunov’s case had been dropped.
“Just imagine how many people in Russia are in jail for nothing, for reasons invented by our government,” she said. “It’s a pity.”