Police arrest hundreds of protesters in Moscow

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By Daniel Bellamy  & Galina Polonskaya  with Reuters
Police arrest hundreds of protesters in Moscow

Over 600 people were arrested by the police at a Moscow street protest on Saturday.

The authorities had banned the protest, which was against the exclusion of opposition candidates in local elections. Thousands ignored the ban and defiantly took to the streets.

But protests on this scale don't present a major challenge to President Vladimir Putin's government, which can quickly send in riot police in response.

"This is the fear of simply people who are on top, they are afraid of us I think, and so, instead of making the right decision, they are doing this, in a stupid way, one of the protesters who gave only his first name Vladislav, said.

"I think if there were a few more of us, they wouldn't be able to push us away like this," he added.

"How can I vote for them if they are not allowed to be in the list? I want to vote for my candidate," another protester said.

Many activists and younger people now seem unafraid to challenge the government authorities on the streets.

Many chanted "Russia without Putin," "Putin resign" and "give us our elections back."

One local politician from the town of Narofominsk, near Moscow, said he went on the protest to see whether human rights would be respected.

"The police started to crush on us, knocked over several people and kicked us in the legs," Aleksey Tolenkov said.

Before the protest, police had detained activists to prevent them from attending, which blocked off some streets.

Then when it was underway, they raided an office used by supporters of opposition figure Alexei Navalny who were live-streaming it on the internet.