Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit

MOSCOW, April 29 (Reuters) - Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities.

Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for 17 years, has not said whether he will run in presidential elections in March 2018. But the 64-year-old politician, who enjoys high popularity ratings, is widely expected to do so.

Saturday's protest in the capital -- called "We're sick of him" -- was organized by the Open Russia movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once Russia's richest man, he was freed by Putin in 2013 after spending a decade in jail for fraud, a charge Khodorkovsky said was politically-motivated.One of hundreds shepherded into a queue behind metal barriers by police before handing over their petitions one-by- one, Anna, a 16-year-old Moscow schoolgirl, said she hoped Putin would get the message and not run again.

"Nothing positive has happened in our country on his watch and I have the sense that things are getting worse, and that the main problem is the fact that those in power are the same," she told Reuters.

See photos of the protest:

18 PHOTOS
Russian protesters call for Putin to quit
See Gallery
Russian protesters call for Putin to quit
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian opposition activist Mark Galperin (C) speeches during an opposition rally in Central Moscow, Russia, April, 29, 2017. Hundreds activists were gathered by the Open Russia opposition movement near the Presidential Administration to bring their letters calling Vladimir Putin not to run the 2018 Presidential Elections. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Opposition activist Maria Baronova (L) , and pro-Kremlin political activist Maria Katasonova (R) meet before an unsanctioned protest in downtown in Moscow, Russia on April 29, 2017. Several hundred demonstrators are gathered in central Moscow, trying to move to the nearby presidential administration building to present letters calling on Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term in office in 2018. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: An opposition supporter wearing tape on his mouth waits in queue outside the president's administrative office to hand in his petition against Vladimir Putin's expected candidacy in elections set for 2018, during a protest rally in Moscow, Russia on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Opposition activist Maria Baronova (L) and pro-Kremlin political activist Maria Katasonova (R) meet before an unsanctioned protest in downtown in Moscow, Russia on April 29, 2017. Several hundred demonstrators are gathered in central Moscow, trying to move to the nearby presidential administration building to present letters calling on Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term in office in 2018. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Police take protesters into custody during a rally that urging Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term for Presidential elections in Kazan, Russia on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Alexey Nasyrov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SAINT-PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Police take protesters into custody during a rally that urging Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term for Presidential elections at Gorkovskaya subway station in Saint-Petersburg, Russia on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian riot policemen awaits for the beginning of an opposition rally in Central Moscow, Russia, April, 29, 2017. Hundreds activists were gathered by the Open Russia opposition movement near the Presidential Administration to bring their letters calling Vladimir Putin not to run the 2018 Presidential Elections. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
SAINT-PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Protesters are seen during a rally that urging Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term for Presidential elections at Gorkovskaya subway station in Saint-Petersburg, Russia on April 29, 2017. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Opposition supporters wait in queue outside the president's administrative office to deliver letters calling for Vladimir Putin not to stand for a fourth term in 2018, during a protest rally in Moscow, April 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Natalia KOLESNIKOVA (Photo credit should read NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers detain an activist during a protest rally calling for Vladimir Putin not to stand for a fourth term in 2018, in Saint Petersburg on April 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Olga MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
Interior Ministry officers detain a participant of an opposition protest, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin not to run for another presidential term next year, in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Interior Ministry officers maintain order as people stand in a queue to get to an office of the presidential administration during an opposition protest, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin not to run for another presidential term next year, in Moscow, Russia, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
An Interior Ministry officer maintains order near people, who stand in a queue to get to an office of the presidential administration during an opposition protest, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin not to run for another presidential term next year, in Moscow, Russia, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
People protest against what they see as the government?s pro-Russia policies near the Russian embassy in Budapest, Hungary, April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
People protest against what they see as the government?s pro-Russia policies near the Russian embassy in Budapest, Hungary, April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
Alexander Litreev, developer of the "Red Button" phone application used to tackle police detention of protesters at demonstrations across the country, poses for a picture in Moscow, Russia, April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Open Russia movement coordinator Maria Baronova (2nd R), surrounded by journalists and an Interior Ministry officer, walks during a protest, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin not to run for another presidential term next year, in central Moscow, Russia, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Her preference for president was opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who spent 15 days in jail last month after helping organize the biggest anti-government protests since 2012, which ended with over 1,000 arrests.

Saturday's event, held in bright sunshine, was more modest, though authorities were taking no chances. A Reuters reporter counted at least 30 police buses and coaches in the area, packed with hundreds of riot police.

Videos posted by Russian media showed police in riot gear detaining protesters in St Petersburg, where activists reported over 100 arrests. There was no official confirmation of the arrests.

STEPPING UP PRESSURE

Police said 250 people had showed up in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported, while Maria Baronova, an Open Russia activist, said at least 500 people had handed over a petition.

Irina Glushkova, 64, standing in the same line as the schoolgirl, said she and many others simply didn't agree with how Putin governed.

"I'm sick of the situation," she said. "I'm the same age as Putin and I don't think I'm less intelligent than him, but my opinion is not taken into account at all."

Click through Vladimir Putin throughout the years:
​​​​​​​

15 PHOTOS
Vladimir Putin through the years
See Gallery
Vladimir Putin through the years
P362575 05: A class photo with Vladimir Putin, (fourth row, second from left) dated 1966 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Laski Diffusion)
368975 01: (AMERICAS ONLY) FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, poses for a photograph in this file photo with his parents Maria and Vladimir Putin in1985 just before his departure to Germany. Putin was sworn in as Russia''s second democratically elected president May 7, 2000, pledging to restore Russia as a great power. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Newsmakers)
ITAR-TASS: LENINGRAD, USSR. Vladimir Putin seen with his wife Lyudmila and daughter Maria. File photo from family archive was taken in spring 1985. (Photo ITAR-TASS) (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
St, petersburg mayor anatoly sobchak and austrian chancellor's wife christine vranitzky during a ceremony to name 'austria square' in downtown st, petersburg, austria has pledged to restore the square, future president of russia, vladimir putin, looks on, far left, september 1992. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George Bush meets with President Vladimir Putin at the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
KRASNODAR, RUSSIA: Russian acting President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to a boy (R) during his visit to the Children's regional clinic hospital in Krasnodar 11 February 2000. Putin arrived in Krasnodar for a two-day visit to take a part in the All Russia Conference on emergency measures to stabilise and develop the Russian agro-industrial complex. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Uzbek president islam karimov helping rf president vladimir putin put on a traditional robe, uzbekistan, december 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura greet President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila outside of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY4: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (L) pose with their wives Ludmila Putin (2nd L) and Ana Botella before their lunch at Moncloa Palace June 14. Putin said he had no reason to believe the arrest of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky was politically motivated but vowed to examine the case, which has stirred stormy protest in Moscow. (Photo credit should read SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Vladimir Putin - Politician, Mayor St. Petersburg, Russia - signs an agreement about the marketing of inventions. Second Mayor and Senator of Economics of Hamburg Hans-Juergen Krupp (right) (Photo by Ambor/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Moscow, russia, outgoing russian president boris yeltsin (r) shaking hands with russian prime minister and acting president vladimir putin (l) as he leaves moscow's kremlin, the seat of russian power,1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Russian prime minister vladimir putin seen casting his vote during the elections to the state duma, at the polling station #2026 in moscow's kosygina street,moscow, russia, december 19, 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
N362234 01: (FILE PHOTO) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on August 16, 1999. President Boris Yeltsin announced on national television Friday, Dec. 31, 1999 that he had resigned and presidential elections will be held within 90 days to replace him. Yeltsin said he was stepping down immediately because he wanted Putin to succeed him. Putin, the country's most popular politician, immediately took control of the government and will serve as acting president until the elections. (photo by Laski Diffusion/Liaison Agency)
SEVEROMORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 7: Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea, 06 April 2000. Vladimir Putin spent the night underwater in a nuclear submarine near the Arctic Circle. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Authorities have stepped up pressure on Open Russia in recent days. The General Prosecutor's Office ruled on Wednesday that the activity of Open Russia's British arm was "undesirable" and accused it and other organizations of trying to discredit the election.

On Thursday, police searched the Moscow offices of Open Russia's Russian branch. Activists said they confiscated 100,000 blank appeal forms which the foundation had hoped to hand out to people encouraging them to call for Putin to quit.

On Friday, REN TV, a Russian TV channel, broadcast a documentary about Open Russia activists, some of whom it accused of having criminal records, of being drug addicts, and of cultivating close links with the U.S. government.

Activists dismissed the program as a cheap stunt designed to discredit them, with at least one noting that REN TV had somehow obtained video footage stored in his mobile phone. (Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.