200 JAILED AS RUSSIAN COPS RAID OPPOSITION MEETING
Russian security forces broke up an opposition gathering on Saturday and detained around 200 people, or almost everyone who attended, according to the Interior Ministry, Hannah Wagner and Ulf Mauder reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
The meeting, planned to last two days, was intended to help opposition politicians get to know each other and collaborate ahead of parliamentary elections due in about six months. The opposition wants to remove long-time President Vladimir Putin from power.
Dozens of people, including journalists covering the event, were temporarily detained in the hotel where the meeting was taking place.
Several prominent opposition politicians and activists were among those taken into custody with prisoner transport vehicles, including Vladimir Kara-Murza, Alexei Pivovarov, Ilya Yashin, and Yevgeny Roizman.
Some said they were released again after several hours. Kara-Murza posted an image of himself in a police transport. Hours later, after he was released, he said there was a "repression machine" in Russia that had developed a life of its own. Other detained participants posted videos of themselves at police stations.
The participants said security authorities were initiating proceedings against them for cooperation with an unwanted organization.
Police broke up the event only half an hour after it started, just as the first speakers had just taken the stage. Police forces stated later that the event involved an organization "not wanted in Russia."
This may have referred to the "Open Russia" organization of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which was declared an "unwanted organization" several years ago. Kara-Murza is the group's coordinator in Russia. Independent media outlets however pointed out that the event was organized by the so-called "United Democrats," a group that has not been banned.