Hundreds arrested in anti-Putin Moscow protest

More than 800 people have been arrested during a protest in Moscow to demand that members of the opposition be allowed to run in a local election later this year.

Authorities had declared Saturday's protest illegal.

Chants of "Russia without Putin" and "Putin resign" echoed through central Moscow as guardsmen clad in riot gear beat back protesters with batons and roughly detained people.

At least one woman appeared to suffer serious head wounds.

Jailed Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called for the protest, near the Moscow Mayor's office, to persuade authorities to allow opposition-minded candidates to run in a September 8 vote in Moscow, which they have been barred from.

A man is arrested in Moscow.
A man is arrested in Moscow. Photo credit: Getty

The opposition has no seats in parliament and is starved of air-time on state TV where many Russians still get their news.

Opinion polls in the past have shown support for Navalny, a lawyer and anti-corruption activist, only in the single digits.

But backers note he won almost a third of the vote in a 2013 Moscow Mayoral race and say his movement could build momentum in the Russian capital if allowed to compete fairly.

Burnishing his man of action image, Putin spent Saturday diving to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland in a mini-submarine to pay tribute to a Soviet submarine that sunk there during World War II.

Putin takes a dive.
Putin takes a dive. Photo credit: Reuters

Authorities say the Moscow local election candidates were prohibited from running because they failed to collect a sufficient number of genuine signatures in their support, an allegation the opposition rejects as false.

OVD-Info, an independent monitoring group, said police detained at least 835 people before or at Saturday's protest.

In the past many of those taken into custody have often been released later on the same day.

Police put participation at more than 3500 people, of whom it said around 700 people were journalists and bloggers. 

Some activists were arrested twice after being released and then returning to protest in a different place. Witnesses said some of those detained appeared to be ordinary passersby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Reuters