More than 300 people were arrested Saturday during protests in Moscow calling for fair and free upcoming local elections, according to an independent monitoring group.
During the unauthorized demonstration, 311 people were arrested, said OVD-info. However Russia’s Ministry of Interior put the number of detainees much lower, at 30, and said that only 350 people had taken part in the protests.
Among those arrested was prominent activist Lyubov Sobol, an ally of high-profile opposition leader Alexei Navalny. She was shown being removed from a taxi and bundled into a van by police moments before the demonstration started, in Reuters footage.
It is the latest in weeks of protests against independent and opposition candidates being barred from the ballot in municipal elections scheduled for September.
Authorities said candidates were barred from running because they had failed to obtain a sufficient number of signatures to be put on the ballot paper. Opposition politicians have rejected this allegation.
Saturday’s turnout was much smaller than last week’s protest outside the Moscow mayor’s office, where police arrested more than 1,300 people, according to OVD-Info.
Well-equipped police turned out in force for the latest protests. Marchers gathered in dispersed locations along one of Moscow’s main boulevards, and individual groups of protesters were quickly cordoned off by riot police.
CNN reporters witnessed one push by police to disperse a small crowd near the Trubnaya metro station. Riot police linked arms to move the crowd out of a park on Tsvetnoi Boulevard, a busy central thoroughfare, while media and bystanders looked on, snapping images with their smartphones.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held national office for nearly 20 years, and while opposition protests pose no direct threat to his rule, they are seen as one barometer of discontent over his long tenure in office.
CNN’s Nathan Hodge reported from Moscow, Sheena McKenzie wrote in London