Russia cracks down on anti-government protests across the country

Police in Moscow detained about three dozen people at unauthorized rallies in the Russian capital on Sunday, a week after anti-government protests broke out across the country.

The police presence was notably heavy in central Moscow. Pedestrians could only access Red Square by passing through metal detectors, and police blocked off Pushkin Square, traditionally a gathering point for demonstrations.

Twenty-nine people were arrested while trying to conduct a march on Triumfalnaya Square and seven others were detained at Manezhnaya Square, which is adjacent to the Kremlin, according to police figures reported by the state news agency Tass.

Separately, well-known opposition activist Ildar Dadin was arrested while picketing outside a police station, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors political repression.

Dadin gained prominence in Russia’s opposition community after being the first person sentenced to prison under harsh protest-suppression measures pushed through by the Kremlin in 2014.

He said he was repeatedly beaten in prison, where he served about half of a 2 ½-year sentence.

In St. Petersburg, one person was arrested as about 20 people tried to organize a small rally outside Gostiny Dvor, a sprawling retail structure on the city’s main avenue, the Interfax news agency cited police as saying.

Last week’s protests, in which more than 1,000 people were arrested in Moscow alone, were the largest opposition show of defiance in several years.

The unexpected size and scope of those protests raised questions about Kremlin strategy – whether it would try to address the protesters’ issues or work to undermine or overtly suppress the opposition.

The new arrests, as well as comments by President Vladimir Putin last week, suggested authorities will act firmly against protests.

“”Everybody should act in political processes within the framework of the law. All those who go outside this law should bear punishment in accordance with Russian law,” Putin said Thursday.

Chechnya

Police in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya have reportedly rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and at least three have been killed, a respected newspaper says.

Novaya Gazeta said it had confirmed the information with sources in the Chechen police and government.

Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesman denied the report and suggested there are no homosexuals in the Muslim-majority region.

Ali Karimov said, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti, that it is “impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic”.

Ramzan Kadyrov, who is backed by the Kremlin, has been widely accused of extensive human rights violations.

He has brought Islam to the fore of Chechnya’s daily life, including opening what is called Europe’s biggest mosque.

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