Violent clashes in Russia as angry protesters call for Putin to resign over economy

Russia was rocked today by some of its strongest protests yet as thousands rallied across the vast country to attack the Kremlin’s response to the global economic crisis.

The marches, complete with Soviet-style red flags and banners, pose a challenge to a government which has faced little threat from the fragmented opposition and politically apathetic population during the boom years fuelled by oil.

Pro-government thugs beat up some of the protesters.

Supporters of the National Bolshevik Party carry flares through Moscow's streets

Banned: Supporters of the National Bolshevik Party carry flares through Moscow’s streets

About 2,500 people marched across the far eastern port of Vladivostok to denounce the Cabinet’s decision to increase car import tariffs, shouting slogans urging Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to resign. Many there make their living by importing cars.

Meanwhile in Moscow arrests were made as about 1,000 diehard Communists rallied in a central square hemmed in by heavy police cordons.

Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov told them the Kremlin must throw out Western capitalism and impose sweeping nationalisation.

Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party – and one of the Kremlin’s most radical critics – was arrested at another Moscow square.

Communists and members of the Action Society of Russia's Citizens march in Vladivostok

Red flags and even images of Lenin and Stalin are borne aloft as Communists and members of the Action Society of Russia’s Citizens march in Vladivostok

Police dispersed demonstrators from the United Civil Front, comprising several radical opposition groups, who launched an illegal rally on a street near the Kremlin.

Protesters gathered near an Metro station but then sidestepped police by taking a train across the city to another location.

Some of the protesters were later arrested. Others were brutally beaten up by activists from pro-Kremlin youth groups.

Several dozen demonstrators marched on a central Moscow street, shouting slogans such as ‘Down with the government!’ and ‘Russia without Putin!’

A bloodied protester marches in Moscow with the United Civil Front

Bloodied: A protester marches in Moscow with the United Civil Front

‘We are demanding civil freedoms and pushing for the government’s resignation,’ said one of the protesters, Valery Nadezhdin.

Several van-loads of riot police only arrived at the site after protesters dispersed.

The protests come after years in which the Kremlin has sidelined political opponents and established tight controls over civil society and the media, rolling back many post-Soviet freedoms.

Today a small group of activists from an opposition youth group, We, stood near the Russian government’s monolithic headquarters with blank posters and their lips sealed with tape. All were arrested.

Police drag away a member of the National Bolshevik Party during a rally in central Moscow

Flashpoint: Police drag away a member of the National Bolshevik Party during today’s rally in central Moscow

The authorities countered with a rally of the main pro-Kremlin United Russia party next to the Kremlin – an area off-limits to all other demonstrations – where soldiers served hot tea and biscuits to some 9,000 participants.

United Russia also staged similar rallies in several other cities across Russia.

In St. Petersburg, where opposition groups were banned from holding rallies, they put individual protesters on the streets.

One, Denis Vasilyev of the United Civil Front, stood on a street with a placard saying: ‘Put the Government Under People’s Control!’

Police took down his details.

Daily Mail:

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