MOSCOW – Russian police arrested about 20 protesters on Wednesday night at a central Moscow square where demonstrators had moved after police uprooted them from a camp, the latest move in a broadening crackdown on the forces opposing President Vladimir Putin.
The detentions at Kudrinskaya Square come as the opposition tries to maintain momentum following a series of massive protests over the winter.
Several hundred demonstrators had gathered at the square outside one of the city’s iconic Stalinist Gothic skyscrapers after an early morning police raid on activists who had set up a camp in a park in the center of Chistoprudny Boulevard.
Video from the square streamed by Ekho Moskvy radio’s website Wednesday night showed police forcing demonstrators into buses while other protesters yelled angrily. Hundreds of demonstrators remained on the square after the arrests.
Police said about 20 people were detained. The state news agency RIA Novosti cited police as saying the detentions began when police were investigating food deliveries to the demonstrators and their attempt to set up a field kitchen. News reports also said prominent opposition figure Ilya Yashin was among those detained.
As they try to intimidate Putin’s opponents, authorities have put leading protest organizers behind bars, threatened others with reprisals and proposed legislation introducing a 300-fold increase in the fine for taking part in unsanctioned rallies.
Some opposition leaders hope that the tough measures will foment anger and fuel bigger rallies. But others fear the repression will blunt the protest movement by scaring away many of the mostly middle-class protesters who turned out in the tens of thousands for peaceful demonstrations this winter.