Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/Getty Images.
The Russian government on Tuesday, rather unsurprisingly, defended its decision to arrest more than 500 demonstrators who were protesting Vladimir Putin's dubious presidential victory, saying Monday night's police crackdown had been both legitimate and effective.
The Associated Press reports that many of the arrests occurred after protesters overstayed their welcome at an approved downtown Moscow rally. Those arrested included a number of leaders of the anti-Putin protests that dominated much of the news coming out of Russia late last year.
One observer said the police presence at the site of the rally was the biggest since 1991 when pro-Soviet forces tried to overthrow president Michael Gorbachev. There were conflicting accounts about how the police dealt with the protesters, but reports that they relied on force left many worried that a larger police crackdown is underway, reports Reuters.
Speaking to state media, a Putin spokesman said that the police "showed a high level of professionalism, legitimacy and effectiveness" in dealing with both the approved and unapproved protests. That statement, the AP explains, suggests that Putin's government intends to continue to shut down any protests that occur outside of specifically authorized, and closely monitored, gatherings.
Putin won Sunday's election with more than 63 percent of the vote, according to the official tally, although those numbers are heavily disputed by both opposition leaders and independent observers.
Defeated presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, an emerging liberal politician who placed third in the election, said in a Twitter message that the police action "broke the tradition of the recent peaceful protest rallies in the country." Prokhorov was referring to the non-violent anti-Putin demonstrations that have been going on since the disputed December parliamentary elections.