On Monday, thousands joined protests in cities across the length of Russia — from Vladivostok on the Pacific coast to St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, and from Murmansk in the Arctic north to the Olympic city of Sochi in the south.

Citizens were protesting against Vladimir Putin’s government and its corruption. 

In Moscow, the protests turned violent, with police using tear gas to try to disperse the demonstrators. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

Police officers at Moscow's most recent protests are pictured.

Charles Maynes

Among them is opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He was picked up just outside his apartment in Moscow before he could even reach the protest. Navalny is a candidate in next year’s presidential election.  

Navalny has conducted a number of investigations into high-level corruption and publicized his findings in a series of videos, which have gone viral over the last few years. His actions have repeatedly gotten him arrested, but not yet into serious trouble.

Popular anger has mounted as the authorities fail to follow up on Navalny’s findings. “The Kremlin doesn’t seem to care,” says The World's Charles Maynes.

The location of the protest in Moscow was changed at the last minute to an unauthorized location next to City Hall, close to the Kremlin.

“It was a surreal scene,” says Maynes, who was at the demonstration that took place on the country's national holiday, Russia Day. "You had this exhibition going on, with a focus on Russian victories through time. So, you had people in World War II gear, you had people from the Middle Ages. So, in some ways, it kind of resembled a Renaissance fair,” he says. 

“You had this strange moment,” adds Maynes, “where you had people protesting and then people in these costumes lingering about, and of course, some tourists caught up in the melee and then just Russians who wanted to take advantage of the holiday. So, it was a strange moment when you couldn’t tell who was there for what reason.”

“That was one of the problems the riot police had when they arrived, as well,” he adds.

Young people are especially responsive to Navalny’s message — “Teenagers, essentially,” says Maynes.

One protester, a 10th-grader named Danila, says, “My conscience got me out her because I feel like you have to do something to change the country for the better."

A Russian officer stands on cars at Monday's protests in Moscow. 

Charles Maynes

Another, a 9th-grader named Anastasia, told Maynes, “If we don’t come out, things will only get worse. It’s like the window is closing for this opportunity to make changes in Russia.”

Protests also took place in the Olympic city of Sochi. 

“[Sochi] is a place where Putin likes to visit. He has a residence here on the Black Sea. Even here, people came out to protest against corruption,” says Anna Nemtsova, a Russia-based reporter.

Portraits of Josef Stalin were propped up against store displays and on buses as protesters took to the streets of the city.

“So many people today are talking about a totalitarian system ... or authoritarian regime coming back. [They’re talking about] returning to the Soviet Union’s style and a sort of repressive regime coming back to Russia,” remarks Nemtsova.

The turnout in Sochi was modest, according to Nemtsova. Still, young Russians attended in strong numbers at protests across the country.

“Today is a day which will be remembered by many young [Russian] people as a day when ... hundreds of young people were arrested. Police grabbed young women and young men and dragged them away from central streets and central squares of Russian cities,” says Nemtsova.

Young protesters in Moscow, here, are holding up rubber ducks, which have become symbolic of corruption. 

Charles Maynes

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI