Russian protesters fear Putin resorting to force

March 6, 2012 13:05

MOSCOW - Russian opposition leaders accused Vladimir Putin of changing tactics to crack down on dissent after riot police detained hundreds of protesters challenging the legitimacy of his presidential election victory.

Black-helmeted police hauled away more than 500 people, including several opposition leaders, who attended unsanctioned rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Monday or refused to disperse at the end of a rally that had been permitted.

Many including Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has become a leading light of the protest movement, were quickly released but some faced the prospect of receiving short jail sentences on Tuesday.

After three months of protests that passed off peacefully, the police intervention sent a clear signal that Putin is losing patience with the opposition and will crack down if protesters step out of line.

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