Russian police detain 500 at protest over journalist

Elias Hubbard
Июня 13, 2019

Investigative reporter Ivan Golunov had been arrested last week on allegedly trumped-up drug charges, but in a rare U-turn by authorities he was released Tuesday following an unusually vocal backlash in Russian Federation and internationally.

Among them was Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent foe.

Mr Golunov was arrested last week and charged with dealing mephedrone and cocaine, accusations that many linked with his muckraking of corruption by Moscow officials.

Despite the journalist's release, his supporters on Wednesday chose to go ahead with the unsanctioned demonstration in Russia's capital to demand punishment for those involved in his alleged framing.

According to the Russian media, the number of detained was at least twice as much as official numbers - over 400 people.

Russian journalist Ivan Golunov, who was freed from house arrest after police abruptly dropped drugs charges against him, reacts while addressing the media near the city office of criminal investigations in Moscow on Tuesday.

"Police ordered people to leave the unauthorised protest, but the protesters were defiant", Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Moscow, said.

The mass arrests at the unauthorized rally provided a harsh coda to the elation of journalists and other supporters of Ivan Golunov a day after Russia's interior minister announced the unprecedented move to drop the charges and seek punishment for the police officers involved. Some wore T-shirts reading "I am/We are Ivan Golunov", the headline used by three national newspapers amid a public outcry over the case.

Authorities had warned that the demonstration would be deemed illegal.

"If we do not show solidarity with each other, the system will break all of us one by one", said Udaltsov.

Under Russian law, the time and place of protests involving more than one person needs to be agreed with the authorities in advance. Organizers of Wednesday's event had demanded that Moscow city officials negotiate those terms with them live on air during a TV broadcast, a demand they said officials refused.

While the unusual prominence of Golunov's case could be seen as a watershed in drawing attention to the issue, observers also said it was only the beginning of a long struggle to hold authorities accountable.

One protester, Ivan, 28, explained why marchers had defied the police.

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