Russian police have detained about 150 opposition politicians and activists taking part in a meeting in Moscow, the organisers of the "United Democrats" forum say.
Russian police have detained about 150 participants of a forum of independent members of municipal councils, an action that comes amid the authorities’ multi-pronged crackdown on dissent.
Police showed up at the gathering in Moscow shortly after it opened on Saturday, saying that all those present will be detained for taking part in an event organised by an “undesirable” organisation. A police officer leading the raid said the detainees will be taken down to police precincts and charged with administrative violations.
The detentions come amid a crackdown on anti-Kremlin sentiment, following the arrest and imprisonment of opposition politician Alexey Navalny who returned to Russia in January after recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Siberia.
The forum, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, was a gathering of municipal deputies from all over the country, Andrei Pivovarov, the event's organiser and executive director of Open Russia, a British-based group founded by exiled former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, told radio station Echo Moskvy.
As the forum got underway, police entered the building and began detaining attendees and taking them to police vans waiting outside, video footage from TV Rain and Russian news agencies showed.
'Everyone is being detained'
OVD-Info, which monitors the detention of political protesters and activists, published a list of more than 150 people it said had been detained.
"The police came to the forum of municipal deputies in Moscow. There are 150 people here from all over the country. Everyone is being detained. I mean, everyone," opposition politician Ilea Yasmin wrote on Twitter.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice-president of the Free Russia Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, shared a picture from the inside of a police van after he was detained.
The police said all participants were being detained because of the "activities of an undesirable organisation", TV Rain reported.
Open Russia is one of more than 30 groups that Moscow has labelled as undesirable and banned under a law adopted in 2015.
Rights advocates say the laws on "undesirable" organisations and "foreign agents" can be used to pressure and target civil society members. Russia denies that and says the laws are needed to protect its national security from outside meddling.
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