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Russian police arrest hundreds at protest following release of detained journalist

Ivan Golunov was detained last week after being charged with attempting to deal a “large amount” of drugs.

Russia Protest Police officers block supporters of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov during a march in Moscow Source: Pavel Golovkin via PA Images

RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE arrested hundreds of people at a Moscow march today after police suddenly dropped drug charges against a respected journalist.

Among those detained were teenagers and Russian and foreign journalists. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was also arrested but was then released hours later.

Ivan Golunov (36) was detained last week after being charged with attempting to deal a “large amount” of drugs and was placed under house arrest at the weekend, facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Supporters claimed the charges were trumped up to punish him for his investigative work and placed under house arrest.

The reporter said he was beaten in detention. His lawyers alleged drugs had been planted on him to justify his arrest. 

In a surprise announcement yesterday Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Golunov was to be released from house arrest and charges against him lifted.

Applying a measure of restraint to the correspondent of Medusa Ivan Golunov in Nikulinsky district court. Ivan Golunov Source: Kristina Kormilicyna via PA Images

Moscow police admitted photographs published on its website that they said showed drug paraphernalia found at the crime scene were not taken at Golunov’s flat.

Golunov’s lawyer said the journalist’s fingerprints were not found on any of the items police said they seized during a search of his flat.

The officers who arrested Golunov last week have been suspended pending an investigation.

Protests

The case has sparked outrage in Russia and abroad over what critics slammed as the impunity and corruption of law enforcement agencies.

Russians, speaking on social media, had said they had hoped for a big protest to harness widespread outrage over last week’s arrest.

However, a much smaller crowd of protesters turned up in central Moscow after Golunov was released yesterday and the charges dropped.

Police in riot gear today moved against the unsanctioned rally in an attempt to prevent the protesters – some of whom shouted anti-Putin slogans – from marching on the Moscow police headquarters.

Russia Protest Police officers detain a protester during the march in Moscow Source: Alexander Zemlianichenko via PA Images

As police dragged demonstrators into vans the crowd yelled: “Shame, on Russia Day, this is our country’s day! Have you forgotten the constitution?” 

OVD Info, which tracks arrests, said more than 420 people were detained. 

Moscow police, however, said around 1,200 people took part in the march and more than 200 were arrested. Many of the people were later released. 

The protesters said senior officials behind Golunov’s case should be punished and called for broad reform of police and courts.

Many called for the release of victims of police abuse and political prisoners including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.

Includes reporting by © – AFP 2019 

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