There have been violent clashes between riot police and anti-Kremlin protestors in St Petersburg a day after a similar demonstration in the capital Moscow. Organisers said officers prevented protestors from heading to the rally.
Up to 1,000 people had gathered in the city centre for the demonstration which had been authorised by authorities.
Violence reportedly erupted at the end of the rally as the protestors were forced through a very narrow police cordon.
Dozens of people were arrested including controversial author Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party.
In similar scenes yesterday, opposition leader Gary Kasparov was seized by police in Moscow and fined for disrupting public order.
He denounces what he calls the Kremlin’s crackdown on freedom of expression: “It shows that Russia today is no longer even a sort of democracy. The current conditions in Russia are similar to those in Belorussia and Zimbabwe,” said Kasparov.
But protests have a marginal influence in Russia where the majority of the population backs the president.
On the eve of the demonstrations planned against him, Putin – himself a black belt in judo – appeared untroubled as he attended a martial arts match in his hometown of St Petersburg.