MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian riot police and national guardsmen detained more than 100 people during May Day protests on Wednesday, sometimes using extreme force to take into custody anti-government activists, Reuters witnesses and a rights monitoring group said.
OVD-Info, the monitoring group, said 124 people had been detained across Russia, and that most of the detentions, 68, had taken place in St Petersburg where several hundred people had taken to the streets calling for fair elections.
Police brutally detained several people, dragging them into police vans, according to Reuters witnesses. Some protesters carried banners saying “For fair elections” and “Petersburg against United Russia,” a reference to Russia’s ruling party which supports President Vladimir Putin.
Several people carrying banners declaring “Putin is not eternal” were also detained, Russian media reported. Supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny were among those detained.
The protests took place at a time when Putin’s rating has fallen to around 60 percent from a high of some 90 percent. That, say pollsters, is partly because the government has announced unpopular moves to raise the retirement age and hike value added tax after five years of falling real incomes.
Putin, who has been in power as either president or prime minister since 1999, was re-elected last year and is due to stay in office until 2024.
Many communist party supporters also marched through the streets of Moscow and other cities on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Andrew Osborn)