MOSCOW - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and hundreds of anti-Kremlin activists were detained by police on Saturday during street protests against Vladimir Putin ahead of his inauguration for a fourth presidential term.
Navalny had called for people to take to the streets in more than 90 towns and cities across the world's largest country to register their opposition to what Navalny says is Putin's autocratic Tsar-like rule.
Putin won a landslide re-election victory in March, extending his grip over Russia for six more years until 2024, making him the longest-lasting leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin who ruled for nearly 30 years.
Navalny, who was barred from running in the election against Putin on what he says was a false pretext, was detained soon after showing up on Moscow's central Pushkinskaya Square where young people chanted "Russia without Putin" and "Down with the Tsar."
Footage of the detention posted online showed five policemen carting him off to a waiting van by his arms and legs.
Navalny, who has been detained and jailed for organizing similar protests in the past, had managed to briefly address several thousand people beforehand, saying he was glad people had shown up.
Reuters reporters saw riot police systematically detaining other protesters in Moscow, some of them harshly, before bundling them into buses. In St Petersburg, protesters were prevented from reaching the city's central square.
Pavel Kuznetsov, a 72-year-old pensioner wearing a T-shirt depicting Putin wearing a crown with a line through it, said he and others had turned up in Moscow to protest against what he said was an election designed to keep a dictator in power.
"We've come out here to demonstrate against the puppet elections," he said.