Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny appeared in court on Monday, a day after being detained at a major opposition rally against government corruption that he led the previous day.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, has lashed out at protest organizers, blaming them for putting lives at risk by inviting people to unsanctioned demonstrations.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Russia on Sunday in the biggest show of defiance since 2011-2012 anti-government protests.
The Kremlin has dismissed the opposition as Westernized urban elite disconnected from the issues faced by the poor in Russia’s far-flung regions, but Sunday’s protests included demonstrations in the areas which typically produce a high vote for President Vladimir Putin, from Siberia’s Chita to Dagestan’s Makhachkala.
Russian police say that about 500 people were arrested, while human rights groups say 1,000 were taken into custody. On Monday, the European Union has called on Russian authorities to release the demonstrators.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman chided protest organizers, saying they incited illegal acts.
“The Kremlin respects people’s civic stance and their right to voice their position,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “We can’t express the same respect to those who consciously misled people and who consciously did it yesterday and provoked illegal actions.”
Peskov defended police who were seen manhandling protesters, some of whom were underage, calling their response “highly professional and lawful.”
Asked about the Kremlin’s reaction to the wide geography of the protests, something that has not been seen at least since 2011, Peskov said “the Kremlin is quite sober about the scale of yesterday’s protests, and are not inclined to diminish them or push them out of proportion.”
Putin “constantly talks to people” and is well-briefed on the sentiment in the country, Peskov insisted.
He also claimed that underage protesters in Moscow were promised cash if they…