Staff of opposition leader's anti-corruption fund jailed

Many protesters were youths, unusual in Russian Federation, where protests are mostly attended by older people.

Teenage students made up a large share of protesters in Moscow and other cities - an unpleasant surprise for the Kremlin, which has hoped to boost support for Putin in the 2018 vote by attracting more young voters. On Monday, the European Union called on Russian authorities to release the demonstrators.

The protest in Tambov had been banned by authorities.

"I want to know the truth", written on the placard that Nizhivenko was holding, got police attention, and she was scooped up into a police van. The experience has not put her off protesting against Russia's ruling elite. Activists believe more than 1,000 were detained in Moscow alone. Navalny became known as one of the leading critics of Putin and the ruling United Russia party during protests in 2011 against Putin's return to the presidency. Authorities in Tambov tightly control the media.

The government says the protest was illegal because city authorities had not granted permission for a march and rally in the center of the city, and that it led to violations of public order.

"This is an obvious attempt to disrupt the work of the organization", said Kira Yarmysh, a spokesperson for the Anti-Corruption Fund. A video about the expose narrated by Navalny garnered more than 13 million views on YouTube and was the chief rallying cry for Sunday's protests.

"Navalny and his investigation set off this wave", says 50-year old businessman Andrei Polyakov, who keeps a pen with Navalny's name in the pocket of his jacket. "We can not respect people who knowingly mislead the underage kids, in fact, asking them, while promising some sort of rewards, to participate in an illegal event".

Like pretty much anywhere in Russian Federation, the local governor and administration are hugely unpopular in Tambov, a city of 400,000, and many tend to blame economic problems in this predominantly agriculture-driven region on them rather than on the Putin regime. Navalny has campaigned unsuccessfully to force the government to investigate the allegations. "Firing him would amount to the recognition that people who took to the streets were right".

The protesters this time round are notably young - most have only known life under Putin and some were born after he took power. "We can't express the same respect to those who consciously misled people and who consciously did it yesterday and provoked illegal actions".

Asked about the fact that participants from across the vast country took part in Sunday's demonstrations, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, "the Kremlin is quite sober about the scale of yesterday's protests, and is not inclined to diminish them or push them out of proportion". Under Russian law, convicted felons are unable to run for office.

  • Leroy Wright