Around 1,200 People Attended Unauthorised Pro-Golunov Rally in Moscow - Interior Ministry


Russian authorities sought Wednesday to crush a new protest wave, arresting more than 400 people at a Moscow march, a day after police suddenly dropped trumped-up drugs charges against a respected journalist.

Authorities had hoped Golunov's release and a promise to punish those involved in framing him would appease his supporters, but they chose to proceed with the protest on Russia Day, a public holiday.

Golunov, a 36-year-old journalist known for exposing corruption among Moscow city officials, was detained by police last Thursday and accused of dealing drugs, an allegation he flatly denied.

Police on Tuesday released reporter Ivan Golunov of the popular online news outlet Meduza, which is based in Latvia to avoid Kremlin pressure, in a rare retreat in the face of a public outcry. Including Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was, as his spokesperson announced on Wednesday via Twitter. According to the Interior Ministry's main Moscow office, Golunov was carrying four grams of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant drug, while five grams of cocaine were found during a search of his rented apartment.

"More than 400 people had been detained at the march", said OVD Info, which monitors opposition arrests.

Kolokoltsev, the interior minister, said some police officers involved in the case were being temporarily removed from duty pending an investigation and that he planned to ask Putin to dismiss other more senior police personnel.

Golunov, who investigated corruption among security services and Moscow officials, was framed in what was seen as punishment for his investigative work. Others wore T-shirts saying, "I am/We are Ivan Golunov", which mirrored the headlines on the front pages Monday of Russia's three daily newspapers. Almost 25,000 people said they were interested in attending on Facebook.

"I'm loving the view", Navalny wrote in an Instagram post that included a photo of demonstrators taken from the barred window of a van where he was being held by police.

Police in Moscow had earlier put the number detained at 200 and said charges could result in 20 days in jail.

Russian police in riot gear moved in against the march of more 1,000 people amid screams of protesters shouting "you are criminals" and "stop police terror". Many chanted "Russia will be free" and "Russia without Putin".

However, the police action in Moscow showed authorities meant to keep tight control over public protest.