Thousands of Russians protested Sunday across the country to protest corruption, in rallies called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Authorities in most cities, including Moscow, refused to authorise the rallies. By midday (0900 GMT) there was a heavy police presence in the capital along the planned route of the protest, scheduled for 2:00 pm.
Navalny called the demonstrations after publishing a detailed report this month accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of non-profit organisations. The report has been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube but Medvedev has so far given no reaction to it.
The Kremlin critic, who has announced his intention to run for president in next year’s elections, has been rallying supporters in major Russian cities in recent weeks.
Some cities have officially sanctioned Sunday’s protest. In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, about 2,000 gathered in the city centre carrying signs like “No to corruption,” according to local news website Sib.fm.
Some held up images of yellow rubber ducks, following reports that Medvedev has a special house for a duck on one of his properties.
The Russian constitution allows public gatherings but recent laws have criminalised protests unauthorised by city authorities, who frequently refuse to grant permission for rallies by Kremlin critics.
Local media estimated about 1,500 people turned out in each of the Siberian cities of Krasnoyarsk and Omsk.
In most places authorities had not authorised the rallies , and some of those who turned up to protest were detained by police.
In the far-eastern city of Vladivostok, about 700 people nonetheless turned up, local website Prima Media said, and a dozen of people were detained by the national guard.
In the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,000 people turned up, according to local Znak.com website.
Navalny said on his official website that 99 Russian cities planned to protest, but that in 72 of them local authorities did not give permission, citing reasons ranging from street cleaning to a bell-ringing concert to rival events by various pro-Kremlin groups.
Authorities had also pressured students not to attend, and some cities even scheduled exams on a Sunday, according to reports.