Russian security forces detained more than 150 people on Saturday after breaking up an opposition gathering, according to civil rights activists.
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’ time. 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.
Opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza and activist Alexei Pivovarov were among those taken into custody, several of whom were being kept in prisoner transport vehicles nearby.
Police broke up the event only half an hour after it started, stating later that it was 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.
The Russian opposition has repeatedly spoken out about freedom of assembly violations by security forces. Attempts by dissidents to assemble and organize have repeatedly failed for this reason.
Several prominent opposition figures were to appear at the meeting of the so-called “United Democrats,” including local Moscow politician Ilya Yashin.
A new parliament will be elected in Russia this autumn. In the election, the United Russia party linked to President Vladimir Putin wants to defend its two-thirds majority.