Almost 90 protesters reported held in Moscow

Monday, 05 Aug, 2019

The Russian opposition vowed to stage another mass rally Saturday despite increasing pressure from authorities, who arrested almost 1,400 people at a protest last week and have launched a criminal probe into the movement.

Lyubov Sobol, an ally of key opposition leader Navalny and now three weeks into a hunger strike after being barred from taking part in the election, was dragged from a taxi and detained as she set off for the rally.

Monitoring group OVD-Info, which runs a hotline for reporting detentions, had been keeping a running toll, which rapidly jumped from a few dozen arrests to several hundred.

During a similar protest last week, the police managed to detain more than 1,000 people, on certain occasions through violent manners. Six of them have been arrested under the court's ruling.

But protesters also reported mistreatment at the hands of police. It's believed to be because of the heavy police presence and use of force.

Lyubov Sobol, an anti-corruption activist and one of the most prominent independent candidates denied access to the September City Duma ballot, was fined 300,000 rubles ($4,600).

Ms Sobol, a lawyer and video blogger, is one of the candidates excluded from the local elections. "I had no option left but to protest", he said. She was taken away in a police van.

President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin have not commented on the standoff with the opposition, but Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Putin ally, has condemned the protests as cynically orchestrated mass disorder.

Authorities said she is being held for violating regulations for street demonstrations.

In July, Ms Sobol was dragged out of the electoral commission office on a sofa.

"They (the authorities) are wiping their feet on us", said Elena, a student attending Saturday's protest.

Navalny and other protest leaders argue corruption is rife in the capital.

But on Saturday, FBK itself became a target of a probe into "laundering" a billion roubles ($15.3 million).

So far, the Investigative Committee has not named any members of the NGO allegedly involved in the money-laundering scheme, but did shed some light on the alleged criminal activities.

What are the protests about?

At a similar protest a week earlier, police detained more than 1,000 people, sometimes violently, in one of the biggest security operations of recent years that brought widespread worldwide condemnation.

Many Muscovites said their signatures in support of the opposition were declared invalid with no reason. For example, Khamovniki municipal deputy and former Meduza correspondent Ilya Azar wrote on Facebook that officials blocked the public's access to the Arbat police station, while Children's Rights Commissioner Evgeniya Bunimovich spent several hours speaking to the juveniles arrested at the protest.