Police have mostly contained the crowds in the centre of Moscow as hundreds have been arrested. Meanwhile an aide to in-coming President Vladimir Putin said that police were too gentle with protesters, criticizing police for not responding with more brutality in dispersing those opposed to tomorrow’s inauguration of Vladimir Putin to a third term as Russia’s top leader.
Scattered light rain began to fall on the Moscow crowd as the first few thousand gathered for a march along a main thoroughfare toward a square opposite the river from the Kremlin. Moscow city officials had issued a permit for a 5,000 person rally but media estimates so far are reporting a turnout of “tens of thousands” and almost immediate police intervention made it difficult to get an official count. The Kyiv Post has estimated the number at 20,000.
Despite the Putin aide complaining about police being too nice, police were in fact brutal at times, beating protesters who refused to leave the plaza known to Russians and “the swamp.” Police sent reinforcements to the area and began seizing demonstrators and dragging them to police vehicles.
The Associated Press reporter at the scene described the arrests of over 400 citizens by club-wielding officers wearing helmets who seized demonstrators and hauled them to police vehicles, dragging some by the hair, others by the neck. Several protesters were injured the three most prominent leaders of the rally were arrested quickly as the rally started.