Russian police detain dozens at opposition forum | Political news

Police said participants were arrested for participating in an event organized by an “ unwanted ” organization.

Russian police have arrested around 150 participants in a forum of independent city council members, an action that comes amid authorities’ multi-faceted crackdown on dissent.

Police showed up at the Moscow rally on Saturday shortly after it opened, claiming that everyone present would be arrested for taking part in an event organized by an “unwanted” organization. A police officer leading the raid said the detainees would be taken to the police station and charged with administrative violations.

OVD-Info, an independent arrest and political repression watchdog group, said more than 150 forum participants were arrested.

Opposition politician Ilea Yasmin wrote on Twitter: “The police came to the forum of municipal deputies in Moscow. There are 150 people here from all over the country. Everyone is detained. I mean, everyone.

The rally was organized by the United Democrats, a group led by politician Andrei Pivovarov. He also played a leading role in Open Russia, a group funded by self-exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky moved to London after spending 10 years in prison in Russia on charges widely seen as political revenge for challenging President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

A 2015 law introduced criminal penalties for membership in “undesirable” organizations. The government used the law to ban around 30 groups, including Open Russia.

An earlier law required non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely characterized political activities to register as “foreign agents”.

The laws have been widely criticized as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to quell dissent, but Russian authorities have described them as a justified response to alleged Western efforts to undermine the country.

Police crackdown on Saturday’s forum follows the arrest and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most determined political foe was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent he attributes to the Kremlin. Russian authorities have dismissed the accusation.

Last month, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating his probation terms while recovering in Germany – charges he dismissed as a Kremlin vendetta. His arrest and imprisonment sparked a wave of protests across Russia, to which authorities responded with massive crackdowns.

The government stepped up its crackdown on the opposition ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September as the popularity of the main Kremlin-backed party, United Russia, waned.

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