MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) – Police detained seven protesters on Moscow’s Red Square on Saturday during an unsanctioned demonstration against the prosecution of people suspected of involvement in unrest at a May 2012 rally against President Vladimir Putin.
Five of the protesters were released without charge shortly after being taken to a local police station, while two others face fines of up to $700 on public disorder charges, reported the ovdinfo.org website, which tracks protest-related arrests.
The Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio station said police had closed off the landmark square during the small-scale protest.
Over 650 people were detained at a May 6 rally on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square on the eve of Putin’s inauguration to a controversial third presidential term as police clashed with protesters.
Most were soon released, but a case soon followed into what the investigators called mass riots. The probe is ongoing.
The riot allegations are hotly disputed by the opposition, which blames the police for provoking the clashes and claims the case is political.
The 26 people implicated in the case so far include protesters from all walks of life, from students to pensioners. Only two pleaded guilty, one of whom was sentenced to four and a half years in November.
Investigators allege the disturbances were organized by a group of leftist activists headed by the leader of the Left Front movement, Sergei Udaltsov, who is currently under house arrest. Udaltsov and two other activists are accused of conspiring with a Georgian politician to organize nationwide disturbances, including the Bolotnaya Square unrest, with the aim of toppling Putin.
A lawyer for one of the suspects, Konstantin Lebedev, a former member of a pro-Kremlin youth group who went over to the opposition in 2004, said earlier this month his client had admitted the charges, including the fact of the Georgian-funded plot to bring down Putin. Udaltsov and the other suspects deny the charges, which carry a sentence of up to ten years behind bars.
Red Square protests in support of the suspects have been taking place every Saturday since mid-March.
(Article corrected to include Lebedev admission)