Dozens arrested as police disperse opposition march

Police in St. Petersburg have detained dozens of opposition activists at an unsanctioned rally against President Putin and his policies. Elsewhere in the city, opposition supporters demonstrated at a rally permitted by the city authorities.

Police detained several right-wing activists at the banned march, including dozens of National Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik movement has been banned in Russia as an extremist organisation.

Among those arrested was Nikita Belykh, the leader of the Union of Right Forces. The party is contesting seats in next month's parliamentary election. 

Police say there were clashes after a group broke away from the main rally in Palace Square and began disrupting traffic.

In another part of the city around 300 people gathered for an authorised rally.

Calm reportedly returned to central St Petersburg when the protesters dispersed.

Gleb Pavlovsky from the Effective Politics Fund says the Union of Right Forces joined the weekend rallies to undermine the election.

“The Union of Right Forces realises its senior citizens-oriented campaign has miserably failed. And that it's likely it won't get the required seven per cent of votes. Their goal now is to make the election illegitimate,” Pavlovsky said.

In his opinion the opposition are already looking for excuses for not attracting voters.

“They will claim their participation in these rallies was the cause of their poor election results,” he said.

Pavlosky says the problem with the police is they “don't make a distinction between the two categories” of people who attend political rallies.  

In his view, people who just attend a rally, no matter how radical their slogans are, should be treated separately from the smaller group who want to provoke clashes.