More than 120 people have been detained during May Day marches in seven Russian cities on Wednesday.
May 1 marks Labor Day in Russia, where official parades and organized street demonstrations celebrating workers and laborers are held across the country. Traditionally, official May Day celebrations in Russia are seen as a source of pride rather than a chance to raise acute social issues or workers’ problems.
A total of 124 people have been apprehended as of mid-afternoon, 68 of them in St. Petersburg alone, according to a tally by the OVD-Info police-monitoring website.
Elsewhere in Russia, OVD-Info said at least 16 activists were detained in the Far East port city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 10 in Siberia’s Tomsk and five in Novosibirsk, all of whom have subsequently been released.
Police brutally detained several people, dragging them into police vans, according to Reuters witnesses. Some protesters carried banners saying “For fair elections” and “Petersburg against United Russia,” a reference to Russia‘s ruling party which supports President Vladimir Putin.
Several people carrying banners declaring “Putin is not eternal” were also detained, Russian media reported. Supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny were among those detained.
OVD-Info did not report if the eight people detained in the western city of Kursk, five in the North Caucasus city of Makhachkala and one in the northern city of Syktyvkar were also released.
At last year’s May Day parade, activists with disabilities accused Moscow police of violent detentions for co-opting the event.
Reuters contributed reporting to this article.