More than 20 arrested at Moscow protest after reporter freed

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 13, 2019

Police said more than 200 protesters had been arrested, though OVD Info, a group monitoring arrests of opposition figures, put the figure at at least 400.

Investigative reporter Ivan Golunov had been arrested last week on allegedly trumped-up drug charges, but in a rare U-turn by authorities he was released Tuesday following an unusually vocal backlash in Russian Federation and internationally.

The crude way supporters said Golunov was set up and detained triggered an unusual show of media unity and an uncharacteristically swift reversal from authorities nervous about social unrest at a time when President Vladimir Putin already faces disquiet over living standards.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen reports from Moscow.

On Monday, three leading Russian newspapers - Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBC - each published front-page headlines reading: "I am/We are Ivan Golunov", accompanied by editorials calling for inquiries into the case. It said police had released many of them without charge later on Wednesday while drawing up charges against others.

However, the police action at the Moscow demonstration showed that authorities intend to keep tight control over public protest.

Hundreds have been detained in Moscow during a protest inspired by baseless drug charges brought against a journalist who investigated high-level corruption.

An older woman said: "Apart from what we achieved with Ivan a lot of other people are wrongly behind bars".

Authorities had said the pro-Golunov demonstrators could hold a rally on Sunday, but protesters believed a delay could have sapped a sense of momentum.

Under Russian law, the time and place of protests involving more than one person needs to be agreed with the authorities in advance.

Organisers of Wednesday's event had demanded that Moscow city officials negotiate those terms with them during a live broadcast, something officials refused to do.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained and charged with repeatedly violating demonstration rules, his press secretary tweeted, an offence that could see him jailed for 30 days.

Navalny, who said police had accused him of organizing the march, said on Twitter later on Wednesday that he had been unexpectedly let go.

Another protester named only by Reuters as Ivan, 28, said the freeing of Golunov did not amount to a victory.

Ivan Golunov was freed on Tuesday following an unprecedented show of media and popular solidarity.

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