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Protesters gather in Russia before Vladimir Putin's inauguration

05 May 2018

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny was detained by police at a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin here on Saturday.

Among those arrested was protest organiser Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is Mr Putin's most prominent foe.

OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political repression, said more than 350 people had been arrested nationwide, but that figure came before protests in the western reaches of Russian Federation had ended.

Thousands of demonstrators crowded into one of Moscow's main squares on Saturday as part of nationwide protests against the upcoming inauguration of Russian President Vladimir Putin to a new term. Some arrests by police were reported, but no overall figure was available.

Reports say he was forced to stay at a secret location on Friday night in order to make it to the Moscow rally at all.

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Protesters on Moscow's Pushkin Square shouted slogans such as "Down with the tsar!"

The OVD-Info said the largest number of arrests as of May 5 mid-afternoon was in Chelyabinsk, where 97 people were detained.

At least ten protesters were detained in the Siberian city of Barnaul, Navalny's team said.

There are fears that protests could lead to clashes similar to those that happened in 2012, at Mr Putin's last inauguration.

He has effectively ruled Russian Federation since 2000, including a period of four years when he served as prime minister (2008-12).

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There have also been protests in the country's second city St Petersburg, Siberia, and Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.

A Twitter account supporting Mr Navalny posted images from the protests, showing a stream of people waving Russian flags and carrying red balloons.

The authorities regard most of the protests as illegal, arguing that their time and place was not agreed with them beforehand.

The reason for this was that the anti-Putin rally traditionally has not been approved by the authorities and is unauthorized.

"I have the feeling that people are gathering just to let off steam and that nothing will change", said the 31-year-old man called Alexander, who declined to give his surname. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, has called Navalny a political charlatan.

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However, European observers said there had been no real choice in the election, and complained of unfair pressure on critical voices.

Protesters gather in Russia before Vladimir Putin's inauguration