WATCH: Thousands march in Moscow opposition rally

The near-weekly rallies are deemed among the largest since a wave of protests in 2011-2012.

September 30, 2019 10:05
1 minute read.
People attend a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters, who were detained during oppositio

People attend a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters, who were detained during opposition demonstrations for fair elections, in Moscow, Russia September 29, 2019.. (photo credit: REUTERS/SHAMIL ZHUMATOV)

 Thousands of Russians took the streets in Moscow to protest political repression as liberal political groups and opposition leaders seek to gain momentum following a summer of protests – Radio Free Europe reported on Sunday.

According to the report, the recent wave of anti-government protests organized after opposition candidates were barred from running to office ahead of the September 8 vote was the largest in years. The September 29 rally, however, wasn't focused on elections but on "political repression."

Braving temperatures hovering around 46 degrees, activists gathered in a central Moscow square, holding umbrellas and Gadsden flags, demanding that authorities halt a campaign of raids and arrests targeting political dissidents and liberal activists following the last wave of protests.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whom many see as the most prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, spoke to the crowd in Moscow, saying "ski-mask raids are not a symbol of horror and terror. They are a symbol of cowardice."

Navalny was recently released from jail after serving a 30-day sentence for violating Russia's protest laws, repeatedly organizing unauthorized public gatherings.

"Some [political prisoners] have been released, but many are still in jail," Navalny said. "Why did they let them go? Because they have a conscience? Because they are ashamed? Because they have children? No, because they were afraid their popularity ratings were dropping."

According to Radio Free Europe, more than 3,000 people were detained and many were beaten by police in the near-weekly rallies, deemed among the largest since a wave of protests in 2011-2012 sparked by anger of electoral fraud at Putin's return for a third term at the Kremlin.

The September 8 elections delivered a significant blow to the ruling United Russia headed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, as the party lost 13 seats in the 45-member Moscow city council – partly due to Navalny's "Smart Voting" strategy, under which he urged voters to back candidates with the best chance of beating UR politicians. Many of the candidates advocated by the opposition leader ran as independents, hiding their affiliation with Navalny's Russia of the Future in light of the arrests.

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