News / Europe

Russian Police Detain Protesters Outside Trial Over Anti-Putin Rally

Punk protest band Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is detained by police at a protest in central Moscow February 24, 2014.
Punk protest band Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina is detained by police at a protest in central Moscow February 24, 2014.
Reuters
Russian riot police detained hundreds of Kremlin opponents on Monday, moving swiftly to curb protests over the jailing of activists convicted of attacking police at a rally against President Vladimir Putin.

With the turmoil in Ukraine adding to tension between the Kremlin and its opponents, Putin foes including Alexei Navalny and members of protest band Pussy Riot were hauled away twice by police, first outside a courthouse and later near the Kremlin.

A judge sentenced seven men to prison terms ranging from 2-1/2 to four years after finding them guilty of rioting and violence against police at a protest on May 6, 2012 -- the day before Putin returned to the presidency for a third term.

The prison sentences and the detention of activists protesting them drew criticism from Europe, adding to strains between Russia and the West at a time when they are deeply at odds over the future of Ukraine.

Outside the court, activists who blame police for clashes at the 2012 anti-Putin rally shouted “shame” and “Maidan” - a reference to the Kiev square at the center of protests that led to the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Relatives and lawyers of the seven said they believed the upheaval in Ukraine, where police were among the dead in a conflict the Kremlin blames on opposition leaders and the West, had prompted the court to impose prison sentences as a signal that such actions would not be tolerated in Russia.

“These sentences are cruel and wrong. They were handed down because of the political situation,” said defense lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky, who said he would appeal against his client's conviction. “We hope our appeal will show that they made a mistake and the defendants won't have to answer for the Maidan.”

A Russian state TV news show host linked the trial with the events in Ukraine in a broadcast on Sunday, saying the bloodshed that killed at least 82 people in Kyiv last week had started with actions similar to the 2012 Moscow protest.

Russian authorities say the convicts came to Moscow's Bolotnaya Square bent on rioting and attacked police with improvised weapons such as rocks, bottles and chunks of asphalt.

Kremlin critics say police started the violence in a deliberate attempt to discredit the opposition and quash a wave of protests as Putin, in power since 2000, started a six-year third presidential term. They describe the convicts as victims of a “show trial” designed to suppress dissent.

Uphill battle

The British Foreign Office said the sentences highlighted “concerns felt by many about the restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression in Russia”.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who visited Ukraine on Monday, said it raised questions about the rule of law and “concerns as to the impact of such trials on the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly in Russia”.

“The arrest of dozens of people who had gathered outside the court to hear the verdict is an additional source of concern,” she added.

Opposition activists said more than 230 people were detained by riot police who grabbed protesters and dragged them to waiting busses. Police put the figure at more than 100.

Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina tweeted a photo of her and bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova with the wire-mesh window of a police van as backdrop.

They were released but detained again after dark, when police mounted major presence outside the Kremlin and prevented protesters from gathering, halting people at metal barriers and subway exits. Activists said more than 315 people were detained, while Moscow police put the number at about 70.

The modest crowds indicated that even with a jolt of inspiration from the protests that put Ukraine's Russian-backed president to rout, Putin's opponents would face an uphill battle in reviving the demonstrations that alarmed the Kremlin when they erupted after a disputed parliamentary election in 2011.

Putin remains by far the most popular politician in Russia.

In December, he engineered the release of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina in an amnesty and freed long-jailed ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky with a pardon - moves widely seen as an effort to improve his image before the 2014 Winter Olympics, a prestige project that ended on Sunday in Sochi.

After reading part of the verdict on Friday, trial judge Natalya Nikishina abruptly called a break until Monday, stirring speculation the Kremlin wanted to keep the sentences under wraps until after the Olympic closing ceremony.

One of the eight defendants, a 20-year-old woman, was given a suspended sentence that will allow her to avoid jail.

Putin denies interfering in court cases, but has said anyone who attacks police must be punished. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the verdict or sentences.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid