Russian police detain protest leader, five others

Reuters, Friday 18 May 2012

Prominent protest leader detained in central Moscow after hundreds gather to protest inauguration of Vladimir Putin as country's new president

Policemen detain Russian opposition activists Chirikova and artist Verzilov as he tries to protect her in a protest camp in central Moscow, May 17, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Russian riot police detained a prominent protest leader and five other demonstrators on Thursday as authorities extended a crackdown on Occupy-style protests in central Moscow against newly-inaugurated President Vladimir Putin.

In a Moscow square where hundreds of people had gathered, police pulled environmental activist-turned-protest leader Yevgeniya Chirikova into a waiting police van as fellow demonstrators tried to protect her.

"What a coward Putin is," wrote Chirikova in one of several frantic Twitter messages on her way to a police station.

Violetta Volkova, Chirikova's lawyer, told Russian new agencies the activist's arm had been broken as police pulled her into the van and she was seeking medical attention in custody.

Police have detained at least 41 people over the last two days, converging on sit-in demonstrations at two locations in the city where people were protesting against Putin's return to the presidency.

The demonstrations are the latest manifestations of the movement that started late last year after numerous allegations of vote rigging in a parliamentary election that critics say handed the Kremlin-backed United Russia victory.

The movement has broadened to reflect anger at other issues, including high-level corruption and the jailing of what protesters say are political prisoners.

Riot police detained at least 35 demonstrators on Wednesday, breaking up one Occupy-style sit-in at a Moscow park and threatened to disperse another in a crackdown on a protest movement against Putin.

Ilya Yashin, a protest leader detained on Wednesday, was sentenced to ten days arrest, Russian news agencies quoted court officials as saying.

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