Published — Thursday 14 June 2012
Last update 14 June 2012 7:21 am
MOSCOW: Russian opposition leaders yesterday accused the Kremlin of using the police to try to scare them into halting their protests against President Vladimir Putin, a day after a giant rally against the Russian leader.
Anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny, 36, and leftist leader Sergei Udaltsov, 35, said they were summoned for a second-day running after police raided their homes and those of at least five other opposition leaders on Monday — a tactic critics said smacked of the dark days of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
“The main task of these multiple summons for questioning is to knock us sideways, to scare us, to mislead, not to give us the opportunity to carry out our public activities normally,” Udaltsov told reporters before entering the modern steel-and-glass investigative committee building.
Udaltsov used Twitter to call on his supporters to gather in the evening outside the federal investigators’ office in Moscow for an occupy-style demonstration as his supporters waited for him to be released.
Tuesday’s anti-Kremlin protest drew tens of thousands of people who marched in the rain chanting “Russia without Putin!” and “Putin is a thief!” down a central Moscow boulevard.
It was the biggest protest against Putin since his May 7 inauguration and coincided with the national holiday of Russia Day.
The Interfax news agency said investigators had issued summons to eight people since Monday as witnesses in a criminal case over violence at a rally where protesters clashed with police on the eve of Putin’s inauguration.
Referencing Stalin’s repression, the Twitter hashtag “Hello again 1937” became one of the most popular on Tuesday as bloggers reacted to news of the police searches and summons.
Anger over a new law which introduced crippling fines for protesters deemed to have violated public order has revived street protests, that were originally sparked by suspicions Putin’s party had cheated its way to victory in a December parliamentary poll.
Putin, 59, remains popular with many people outside Moscow and St. Petersburg for presiding over an oil-fuelled economic boom from 2000-2008 that restored Russia’s international standing.
He has made no direct reference to Tuesday’s protest, but during celebrations for Russia Day said that those who rocked the boat were out to undermine Russia.