Prominent Russian opposition figures were arrested during protests Monday night in Moscow against the presidential election victory of Vladimir Putin.
Up to 20,000 people gathered in the capital under the protest banner For Honest Elections, a day after Putin, currently serving as prime minister, won in a landslide that returns him to the presidency for a third term. The protesters called on Putin to resign and condemned Sunday's vote, which independent observers said was skewed in his favor.
Their election is a farce, opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former member of Russia's parliament, told protesters. The authorities are illegitimate.
Of the 250 people reportedly arrested during two main Moscow rallies Monday were a number of known dissidents and political activists, including lawyer and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and Left Front party leader Sergei Udaltsov.
The opposition figures were alleged to have stayed in Pushkin Square -- where demonstrators had official permission for their protest -- after the event's scheduled end. Before being arrested, Navalny, who had given a speech earlier in the night, stood his ground and refused to leave the public square as police in riot gear cleared out thousands of demonstrators .
Hello everyone from the police van, Navalny wrote on Twitter after being taken into police custody.
He and Udaltsov have shared a holding cell in the past. Both were arrested in December during the largest anti-government protests Russia has seen since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
Udaltsov was charged with protesting without permission, while Navalny was sentenced to 15 days for defying a government official.
Eduard Limonov, a writer and head of the banned National Bolshevik Party, was also arrested for protesting outside Pushkin Square without first informing the authorities of his plans. Activist Ilya Yashin, who runs the liberal democratic Solidarnost movement, was also arrested Monday.
A total of 12,000 riot-conrol officers were deployed in Moscow for Monday's post-election rallies. After surrounding protesters in Pushkin Square, the police used smoke to disperse the crowds and arrested people walking toward the Kremlin after Navalny and other activists spoke.
Supporters of Putin held their own rally in Manezh Square, near the Kremlin.