MOSCOW, October 27 (RIA Novosti) – Thousands of protestors rallied in the Russian capital on Sunday to call on the Kremlin to release people they consider to be political prisoners.
Police said in a statement that about 5,000 people took part in the protest, while some participants said that closer to 10,000 people attended. Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, currently under house arrest accused of plotting mass riots, said on Twitter that 25,000 people turned out.
Carrying placards of prisoners in Russian jails including protestors accused of taking part in rioting, members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot, ex-oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Greenpeace activists detained in the Arctic, demonstrators gathered on Pushkin Square in central Moscow before marching through the city.
Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that Russia does not have any political prisoners.
The rally, which passed off peacefully, is the latest in a string of anti-Kremlin demonstrations. Attendance at such events has fallen steadily since they began almost two years ago after allegations of mass electoral fraud, but Sunday showed that organizers retain the ability to bring thousands onto the streets.
Demonstrators included opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, activist Ilya Yashin, environmental campaigner Yevgeniya Chirikova, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, writer Boris Nemtsov and liberal Yabloko Party leader Sergei Mitrokhin, according to photographs and reports from the rally.
Protestor attention was focused in particular on upwards of 30 people who have been arrested in the wake of an opposition rally on May 6 last year that descended into bloody skirmishes between police and protestors. The authorities say violence was initiated by activists, while opposition leaders maintain it was provoked by the police.
Twelve people are currently on trial in the case. One protestor, found guilty of attacking a police officer on May 6, was sentenced in August to undergo forced psychiatric treatment.
Putin, who has been accused of organizing a wave of political repression since he returned to the Kremlin for a third presidential term in 2012, said last month that he is considering an amnesty for those arrested on May 6, but will not intervene while the legal process is ongoing.