Dozens Of People Detained As Russia Marks May Day

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Police have detained scores of people across Russia as opposition activists, communists, and union members marked May Day with holiday rallies and antigovernment protests.

In St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, riot police broke up an opposition rally and detained 69 people on May 1 after participants chanted slogans critical of President Vladimir Putin, according to OVD-Info , an activist group that tracks police arrests.

Some of the participants chanted slogans such as "Putin is a thief" and "This is our city," while others carried placards reading "Putin is not immortal."

Protest organizers said demonstrations were being held in аs many as 30 cities across Russia. In the city of Tula, south of Moscow, city administrators told the Interfax news agency that nearly 33,000 people had turned out for the May Day event.


Popular discontent has been building in Russia over recent years amid controversial pension reforms and falling living standards.

Putin, who was reelected as president in March 2018, has seen his popularity decline and opinion surveys show his approval ratings sinking noticeably.

Supporters of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny were among some 2,000 marchers in St. Petersburg.

"Tremendous. They dispersed a sanctioned march for no good reason," Navalny said on Twitter .

Local lawmaker Maksim Reznik, who was among those detained, posted a picture showing police officers in riot gear dragging him along the ground. He was later released.

Several thousand members of the ruling United Russia party, the Communist Party, and other activists also turned out in the center of St. Petersburg.

Thousands of people also demonstrated in the capital, Moscow, and other cities, waving red flags.

In all, 126 people were detained in 10 cities across Russia. including 16 people in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 10 in the Siberian city of Tomsk, and 18 others in Kursk, Makhachkala, and Novosibirsk.

The May Day theme has been partially supplanted by a new generation of activists who have used the day to organize more off-beat marches, highlighting what they say is the absurdity of Russia's political system.

The "Monstration" rallies, which were staged in several of the cities, included people marching in outlandish costumes with absurdist and sometimes nonsensical signs.

In one, held in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, a man in a dinosaur costume held a sign that read, "We died out because the state didn’t ask us to give birth."

With reporting by AFP and AP