(Vatican Radio) Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and as many as 200 other activists have been detained in Russia where many thousands of people gathered Sunday in the capital Moscow and other cities for unsanctioned protests against the Russian government. The anti-corruption demonstrations are the most extensive show of defiance in years and come ahead of presidential elections.
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His supporters shouted slogans as Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is leading the opposition to President Vladimir Putin, was taken into custody. He was detained while walking from a nearby subway station to the demonstration against the government here at Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square.
Demonstrators tried to halt a police bus that was believed to take to him to an unknown location.
Russian media said as many as hundreds of other protesters were also detained by security forces.
Riot police clashed with demonstrators. A policeman took away a sign carried by a protester with the words 'Putin 666'.
The now detained Navalny and his Foundation for Fighting Corruption had called for the protests. They also attracted hundreds or thousands in most sizable Russian cities, from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the European heartland including St. Petersburg.
Sunday's rallies have focused on reports by Navalny's group claiming that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. The alleged luxuries include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in Sunday's protests featured mocking images of yellow duck toys.
These protests are the largest coordinated outpourings of dissatisfaction in Russia since the massive demonstrations in 2011 and 2012 that followed what critics believe were fraud-tainted parliamentary elections.
It also comes as a warning to President Vladimir Putin who faces a presidential election next year.
Yet a Russian court recently effectively derailed a presidential run by Navalny the only opposition candidate with a broad, enthusiastic popular following — by reviving a four-year-old criminal conviction.
The decision by the district court was widely viewed as a move by Putin to eliminate his only viable rival.