Moscow police detained over a hundred demonstrators who held an unapproved rally on Wednesday evening. They were protesting against constitutional changes passed in a national vote earlier this month.
Those present were particularly opposed to a new clause re-setting presidential term limits – this could potentially allow Vladimir Putin to run for president two more times and stay in the Kremlin until 2036. A similar event was also held in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city.
Between 200 to 300 people gathered at Pushkin Square in central Moscow on Wednesday evening, according to estimates from Kommersant newspaper.
The protesters said they were gathering signatures in favor of revoking the constitutional amendments, passed in a nationwide vote earlier this month with the support of 78 percent of the participants.
While the gathering was unauthorized, law enforcement did not intervene at first. Police acted when the bulk of protesters tried to move the march to the Garden Ring – a major ring road in downtown Moscow – and disrupt traffic there.
A total of 132 people were detained, TASS news agency reported, citing official numbers. They included Yulia Galyamina, a well-known Moscow city councilor. Eyewitnesses complained of a heavy-handed police approach.
A similar unauthorized event was held around the same time in central St. Petersburg. According to media estimates, the gathering attracted around 500 protesters, but turned out to be less eventful than the one in Moscow, with no arrests reported.
In recent years, July has come to be regarded as ‘protest season’ in Russia. Despite opposition anger at the constitutional changes and the manner in which the national vote was conducted, this year has been relatively quiet in the capital so far. This is likely due in part to Covid-19 related restrictions, which have made it impossible to organize large authorized gatherings.
Instead, the most visible protests have taken place in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, where many locals are incensed at the arrest of their governor, Sergey Furgal, on murder charges.