At least 68 were arrested in St Petersburg, where banners saying "Putin is not eternal" appeared. For St Petersburg legislator, national holidays are being used for provocation, to divide and not unite people. Still, people are disappointed with the country’s president.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - During yesterday's May Day rallies, police arrested a number of people in several cities across the country. Many people were detained before protests got underway, this according to OVD-Info. In total, by 3.30pm Moscow time, at least 124 people were in custody, 68 in St Petersburg alone.
In yesterday’s rally in St Petersburg, approved by the authorities, people shouted ‘Free Petersburg - free elections!’ However, at some point, the police decided that the march and its slogans did not correspond to the writ, and started arresting people.
In particular, three protesters were held for a poster that said "Putin is not eternal"; four other activists were detained for a banner that said ‘Beglov like Sobchak’, a hint to a former St Petersburg politician accused of graft. Alexander Beglov is the Governor of Saint Petersburg.
The chairperson of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, Vyacheslav Makarov, slammed the opposition, saying that its protest on May Day was a provocation and that police acted "in accordance with the law".
"The actions of the opposition during the May Day rally are a recognition of its political failure: more and more national holidays are used for provocations, to divide people and not to unite them," said Makarov. "I want to emphasise that the police acted in full compliance with the law, which protects everyone's interests."
In total, about 66 people from different social movements were arrested, including Maksim Reznik, a member of the Legislative Assembly. He was later released, and police authorities apologised to him.
Even activist Natalia Barinova, candidate in the municipal elections, was arrested. Whilst holding her in detention, the police caused her to fall. She was taken from the police station in an ambulance for a shoulder injury, witnesses said.
Journalist Georgi Markov, who taped the event, was also injured. He said he was beaten and arrested by the police.
NGO Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) reported that its president, Andrei Pivovarov, its St Petersburg coordinator Sergey Kuzin, and activist Vasiliy Kunin were also arrested.
Activist Aleksander Shurshev was also among those detained. Shurshev and Pivovarov were in charge of organising a non-authorised meeting within an approved rally. According to a lawyer, they will stay in prison for ten days.
The police and members of Rosgvardia (National Guard of the Russian Federation) also dispersed a group of United Democrats and members of the Yabloko (liberal) party, who stopped for an hour on Nevsky Prospect, demanding that detained activists be released.
May Day is still a “holy” day that dates back to Soviet times, when workers were hailed as superior to any other social class.
Protesters’ decision to use this day is further indication of President Putin's declining popularity with ordinary Russians, disappointed by his recent policies against the country’s socialist welfare traditions.