Some reports suggest over 1500 people - including opposition leader Aleksei Navalny - were detained during a series of anti-corruption protests that drew tens of thousands across Russia on Monday, June 12. Official government statements indicate police arrested 650 protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg combined while OVD-Info, an NGO monitoring law enforcement in Russia, claims that 823 were arrested in Moscow and 600 in St. Petersburg, as well as more than 100 others elsewhere in the country.
The protests, which were banned by the Russian government, coincided with Russia Day celebrations. A number of the demonstrations, which reportedly took place in 187 cities across Russia, devolved into clashes between police and demonstrators. Navalny, who was arrested outside his Moscow home, has been sentenced to a 30-day jail term for promoting the demonstrations.
Further demonstrations are likely in the coming days and weeks, and the possibility of violence cannot be ruled out.
Navalny is the main political opposition figure in Russia, gaining popularity after revealing proof of government corruption on his blog and criticizing President Vladimir Putin publicly after beginning a third term in 2012. He has announced that he intends to oppose Putin in the 2018 presidential elections.
Navalny and hundreds of other demonstrators were arrested in anti-corruption protests that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of cities across Russia on March 26. These were the largest coordinated protests in Russia since 2012 and, in central Moscow alone, some 700 protesters were allegedly arrested for participating in the event. Navalny spent 15 days in prison following the protests. Police and military security personnel responded to the protests in Moscow and elsewhere with barricades and tear gas; some violent clashes between police and protestors were reported in the capital.
Individuals present in Russia are advised to avoid all demonstrations as violence can break out with little to no warning. Travelers should be aware that large public gatherings in Europe have been targeted by terrorist attacks in recent years; remain vigilant and report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.