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Russian opposition leaders, hundreds of protesters arrested

March 5, 2012 |  1:39 pm


REPORTING FROM MOSCOW AND LOS ANGELES -- Hundreds of protesters who tried to occupy a Moscow square were arrested Monday after an impassioned rally against President-elect Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of other protesters were arrested in St. Petersburg.

Two hundred and fifty people were detained in Moscow, according to the Interior Ministry. The Moscow arrestees included opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny, a blogger and attorney who tweeted from police custody, asking for a volunteer lawyer. 

Navalny added that he was unsure what awaited him, saying that officials had taken away his personal documents to check them. He was later released.

During a Monday rally in downtown Pushkin Square, Navalny called the Russian government under Putin "the authority of crooks and thieves," the Associated Press reported. 

Elsewhere in Russia, police said an estimated 300 protesters were arrested in St. Petersburg when they tried to hold a demonstration in St. Isaac’s Square.

The Russian opposition charged that Putin won the presidency in a race marred by vote fraud. Election monitors complained about widespread voting violations on Sunday, including "carousels" that bused people from poll to poll to vote over and over.

More than 20,000 people poured into downtown Moscow to protest allegations of election rigging and rally against Putin, who had been widely expected to win the presidential election.

Three journalists and a blogger who were covering the protests were also detained by Russian police, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.


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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles and Sergei L. Loiko in Moscow

Photo: Police detain protest leader Alexei Navalny, seen wearing a hooded jacket, after a rally in Pushkin Square in Moscow on Monday. Credit: Maria Turchenkova / Associated Press