Russian police broke up an election forum for an opposing political party in Moscow on Saturday, reportedly detaining 200 people.
The police broke up the meeting shortly after it began, according to the BBC. Police claimed that pandemic restrictions were being violated and stated the event was arranged by an “undesirable organization,” the BBC reported.
“A significant portion of participants lacked personal protective equipment,” the police said. “Members of an organization whose activities are considered undesirable on Russian territory were among the participants.”
Police raid pro-democracy forum in Moscow: Russian police raided a forum for independent members of the country’s municipal councils, arresting more than 100 people after the government claimed the event was put together by an “undesirable” organization,… https://t.co/B2h1vQQzuP pic.twitter.com/hAANgyMHK5
— Marcus Evans ⚛️ ???????????? (@MarcuswevansSr) March 14, 2021
Police claimed the detainees were not following anti-coronavirus health measures yet footage showed most of the participants were wearing masks, Reuters reported.
The forum was organized by a group known as Open Russia, Reuters reported. The conference was supposed to take place on Saturday and Sunday and focus on candidates running for municipal office in upcoming elections, said Open Russia executive director Andrei Pivovarov, the event’s organizer.
Open Russia is an opposition group founded by former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The group was previously identified as undesirable and banned by the Russian government, according to Reuters.
“The ENTIRE forum of Russian municipal deputies has been detained in Moscow!” Khodorkovsky tweeted, according to Reuters. He lambasted the actions against the forum as “unconstitutional.”
В Москве задержан ВЕСЬ форум муниципальных депутатов России! Более 100 депутатов муниципальных советов со всей страны.
Диктатура отбрасывает последние фиговые листочки..
Призываю депутатов представительных органов поддержать коллег и заявить о неконституционности таких действий! pic.twitter.com/FzlRRGO6eO
— Ходорковский Михаил (@mich261213) March 13, 2021
A group of well-known opposition figures were among the detained, Reuters reported, including Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Yulia Galyamina, Yevgeny Roizman and Andrei Pivovarov. (RELATED: Authorities Won’t Tell Where Jailed Russian Opposition Leader Is Held, Lawyers Say)
Russian police frequently break up opposition protests, but the amount of arrests of municipal deputies and opposition party members was unprecedented, according to France 24.
This is the latest incident in a string of recent crackdowns on political opposition in the Russian Federation. In January, countrywide protests were held in Russia after the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“A very symbolic end to a short forum: deputies in police vans, and masked police are twisting people’s arms,” Yashin said on Facebook, according to the Moscow Times.