Russian Police Detain Hundreds At Moscow Protest


Bella Kocabiyik

Russian police have detained over 800 protesters demanding free elections in Moscow. The protesters gathered in Pushkin Square with the intent to protests to rally against the exclusion of opposition candidates from the Moscow city council election, however, they were met by massive police forces, who began arresting protesters before the protest had officially begun.  The call for protests was incited after election authorities barred opposition candidates from taking part in Moscow city authority elections planned for 8th September. Officials said many of the signatures required for their candidacy applications were invalid. But protesters say they were excluded for political reasons.

Protests started a week earlier with reports of authorities detaining more than 1,000 demonstrators during a demonstration, one of the biggest crackdowns in years.

“These protests are a clear sign of a growing social irritation and discontent among ordinary Russians,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of R.Politik, a political analysis firm.

A close aide of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Leonid Volkov, announced plans for a nationwide protest on August 10th. He demanded the resignation of Moscow authorities and the release of jailed activists.“This is a matter of human dignity, about the right to choose and express one’s opinion.” 

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sunday said that Saturday’s response by the authorities “undermines the rights of citizens to participate fully in the democratic process.”

While the arrests are for the most part non-violent, it is hard to applaud the actions taken by the Russian government and police in silencing the political opposition as they have done for so long. Through not allowing opposition candidates as well as arresting protesters of the current government, Russia is not allowing the democratic process to flourish. This is concerning because through stifling citizen’s right to choose the fate of their government, Russia both risks an increase in protests and violence and also causes concern for human rights and dignity in Russia.

These protests in Russia began as a result of the Moscow city council election, an election that used to go by quietly until the opposition candidates were excluded from the elections. While the local elections incited the protests, many demonstrators have voiced wider grievances with the state of democracy in Russia, two years before a national parliamentary election. Another protest held in solidarity in St. Petersburg on Saturday had around 1,000 attendees however there are no reports of arrests. In terms of the state of democracy in Russia, many opposition candidates to President Vladimir Putin’s government have been barred from competing and it is widely believed that presidential election results are rigged in favor of Putin’s government. 

The future implication of these protests and arrests are hard to identify. Either there will be more public protests to enact change and create more freedom and democracy in Russia, or the Russian government will use means like mass arresting protestors in order to control the population and ensure that Putin’s regime will remain in the majority. Either way, the status of democracy in Russia is concerning.