Oct. 8 (UPI) — Protests organized by a jailed political opponent of Vladimir Putin jeered the Russian president on the occasion of his 65th birthday.
Putin’s primary political foe, Aleksei Navalny, who was jailed earlier this week for 20 days after allegedly organizing unsanctioned protests, called on followers to gather in towns and cities across the country to protest Putin, who is widely expected to win another six-year term with tacit opposition in elections scheduled for later this year.
Protesters shouted the refrain “happy birthday Putin, and goodbye,” a reference to the fact the former KGB agent will be 70 when his next term ends.
Police across Russia arrested protesters, though official numbers were not available. A watchdog group estimated the number at 271 arrests in 12 different cities. Images on social media showed the largest protest occurred in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. A few thousand individuals clashed with police, and images showed some of the protesters bloodied and being hauled away.
A few hundred protesters braved torrential rain and a heavy police presence to gather in Moscow.
In general, The New York Times said, the birthday protests were smaller than other anti-Putin demonstrations organized by Navalny over the last year.
Navalny has been banned from registering for the election by Russian authorities due to a previous corruption conviction. Navalny has dismissed the conviction as politically motivated.