Around 200 opposition protestors were detained in Moscow on Saturday, as per a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.
After a series of restrictions sustained by members of the opposition after Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment, this detention is the latest.
Navalny was detained in January when he arrived back from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from Novichok poisoning he alleged on the Russian government. The Kremlin has recurrently denied any involvement.
On Saturday, municipal deputies from Russia’s regions collected in the Russian capital to deliberate parliamentary and local elections — which are due for September — at a forum held by United Democrats, a project targeted at supporting competitive election, according to their website.
Opposition activist Ilya Yashin mentioned 40 minutes into the event, and police broke up the forum and detained around 150 people.
“A very symbolic end to a short forum: deputies in police vans, and masked police are twisting people’s arms,” Yashin commented on Facebook.
“But nobody promised us the freedom on a silver platter. Russia will be free anyway,” he added further.
Yashin also posted pictures on Twitter when he was taken away from the police forum and from inside the police van.
Anastasia Burakova, a coordinator of United Democrats shared with Russian state media RIA Novosti that the forum was organized at the Izmailovo Delta Hotel, where municipal deputies from across Russia gathered to discuss the plan for the upcoming electoral cycle and share their experiences.
“Everyone was detained who took part both as a listener and as a speaker. No reason was given,” Burakova shared with RIA Novosti.
In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said that around 200 people had been detained, quoting a breach of coronavirus protocols.
“In one of the hotel premises in Izmailovsky Highway, a group of residents, representatives of a public organization, attempted to hold a public event in violation of the established sanitary and epidemiological requirements — a considerable part of the participants did not have personal protective facilities,” the Interior Ministry statement stated.
The statement added that “besides, members of an organization whose activities are recognized as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation were identified among the participants,” and that police stopped the “illegal actions.”
Police detained around 200 people who had participated in the forum on Saturday, citing a breach of Covid-19 protocols and “illegal actions.”
For months, opposition activists have faced a with a harsh show of force, displayed most strongly on January 31, when over 5,000 people were detained during nationwide protests in 85 cities in support of Navalny.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs commented that “checks are being conducted” on the campaigners detained on Saturday, and that “a decision will be undertaken in compliance with the law.”