RUSSIA: Security operatives arrest opposition leader, activists before Putin's inauguration

Alexei Navalny arrested as thousands in Russia demonstrate against Vladimir Putin inauguration

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine strongly condemns the brutal attacks of the Kremlin regime's punitive units against Russian citizens who have taken to the streets to stage "He's not our tsar" peaceful protest rallies that rolled across Russia ahead of Vladimir Putin's inauguration.

Anti-Kremlin protesters poured into the streets of Moscow after Navalny had called for demonstrations in more than 90 towns and cities across Russian Federation against what he says is Putin's autocratic, tsar-like rule.

Video showed police carrying a struggling Navalny out of the square, holding him by the legs and arms.

Authorities have argued that protests that are not preapproved are considered illegal, but Navalny indicated that these tactics are not new and will not stop protesters from returning to the streets. It is said that Putin had suspected the United States and especially Hillary Clinton for encouraging the protests and to avenge this, had allegedly interfered in the American presidential election of 2016.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called for the nationwide demonstrations against Putin's rule.

In Saint Petersburg, several thousand people marched along Nevsky Prospect, the city's main thoroughfare, chanting "Putin is a thief" and "Down with the tsar".

The activist himself was detained at an unsanctioned rally in the Russian capital on Saturday for violating rules on organizing public demonstrations, police confirmed.

One activist told a crowd in the city of Khabarovsk: Putin has already been on his throne for 18 years!

Riot police officers formed wedges and began thrusting into the crowd and grabbing protesters seemingly at random.

Demonstrations under the slogan "He is not our czar" took place throughout the country, from Yakutsk in the far northeast to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad on the fringes of Europe.

Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said it was hard to tell exactly how many people had shown up at the protests due to different estimations from police and protesters themselves.

Mr Putin, 65, has been in power, either as president or prime minister, since 2000.

Mr Putin boasts an approval rating of around 80%.

The chaotic arrests in Moscow were an echo of protests held the day before Putin's last inauguration in 2012, which ended in violent clashes with police.

Navalny, his fiercest opponent, was barred from the race because he carries a fraud conviction, which he dismissed as a politically motivated move to keep him off the ballot.

Navalny is known for posting online articles about the alleged corrupt practices of Russia's elite.

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