More Than 300 Held in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg MarchHundreds of demonstrators were detained by Russian special forces on Sunday in St. Petersburg. They were participating in an opposition protest dubbed the Dissenters’ March, which was organized by political organizations opposed to President Vladimir Putin.

Among those arrested were Nikita Belykh, the head of the Union of Right Forces (SPS) political party, and Boris Nemtsov, a presidential candidate and former deputy prime minister. Nemtsov was seized as he was giving an interview in Palace square, in front of the Hermitage museum, where the gathering was taking place.

“So many police proves they are afraid of us,” Nemtsov said as he was taken.

More than 2000 people came out for the protest, which was met by hundreds of police and special forces troops in full riot gear.

A group of people marching from the Yabloko party headquarters were beaten and arrested when a number of young men unfurled flags of the banned National Bolshevik Party. A Yabloko spokeswoman told reporters that the men were provocateurs working with the authorities, and that they were released immediately by police. 10 parliamentary candidates from the party were among those detained.

Most of the captured demonstrators were later released on the outskirts of town without charges, although several prominent figures continue to be held. Many were apparently detained to prevent the Dissenter’s March from meeting a nearby pro-Putin gathering.

Similar marches have taken place across Russia, including Moscow, where United Civil Front leader and presidential candidate Garry Kasparov was arrested and sentenced to 5 days in prison.

The primary slogans of the protest were “For Russia, against Putin!” “No to elections without choice!” and “This is our city!”