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MOSCOW (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators crowded into one of Moscow's main squares on Saturday as part of nationwide protests against the upcoming inauguration of President Vladimir Putin to a new term.
Police in riot gear waded into the crowd on Pushkin Square and were seen grabbing some demonstrators and leading them away, but there were no immediate moves to disperse the unauthorized gathering. A helicopter hovered overhead to monitor the crowd.
The protests Saturday under the slogan "He is not our czar" are organized by Putin's most prominent foe, anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.
News reports and social media postings said protests had attracted hundreds or more in at least a dozen cities in the Far East and Siberia earlier in the day. Reports said police arrested activists in several cities, including a Navalny supporter who was seized in a cafe in the city of Samara, but no figures on the overall number of arrests was immediately available.
Demonstrators also gathered in St. Petersburg, where authorities had closed off Mars Field, a large park that is often a venue for demonstrations; signs on the barricades said it was closed for urgent repair work.
Putin will be inaugurated Monday for a six-year term.
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