MOSCOW — Russian police detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny in central Moscow on Sunday at a rally which Navalny had called to protest against corruption.
A Reuters reporter saw police detain Navalny on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street and put him in a police truck. Hundreds of opposition protesters crowded around the police van and tried to prevent it from taking Navalny away.
A tweet from Navalny’s account after the incident said: “Guys, I’m all right. Don’t try to break me out. Go on walking down the Tverskaya [Street]. Our topic today is fight against corruption.”
Russian protesters denouncing government corruption had gathered in cities across Russia and some have scuffled with police.
The Sunday protests appear to be one of the largest coordinated outpourings of dissatisfaction since the 2011-12 demonstrations following a fraud-tainted parliamentary election.
The demonstrations were driven by Navalny and focus on his recent claims that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards.
Moscow police told the TASS news agency that the total number of people detained during the protests was “more than 500.” Police also said those detained will faces “administrative prosecution,” or fines and arrests.
But the final tally of those detained in Moscow was 700, according to the OVD-Info human rights monitoring group.
Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmush, said on Twitter that people a his office had been detained and Leonid Volkov, the head of the office and co-founder of Navalny’s unregistered Party of Progress, was facing extremism charges.
Some demonstrators have showed up with their faces painted green, a reference to a recent attack on Navalny when an assailant threw a green anti-septic liquid onto his face.
It is not the first time Navalny has been in trouble with the police, just last month being convicted for embezzling 16 million rubles ($270,000) in 2009.
At the time Navalny said the conviction was a bid to stop him challenging Vladimir Putin’s party in the upcoming elections. People with criminal convictions are ineligible to run for office in Russia.