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Hundreds arrested in Moscow protests over journalist's arrest

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Hundreds of Russians were arrested in Moscow Wednesday during a protest over the way Meduza news project journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested. Photo by Sergie Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
Hundreds of Russians were arrested in Moscow Wednesday during a protest over the way Meduza news project journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested. Photo by Sergie Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE

June 12 (UPI) -- Protesters in Moscow called for greater punishment for police officers who allegedly framed freed investigative journalist Ivan Golunov.

More than 400 people were arrested Wednesday in a march that wasn't authorized by the government. The protest was scheduled before Golunov's drug charges were dropped and he was set free, but organizers decided to have it anyway, changing the focus to the police officers.

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Russia's Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said the case was dropped because of a lack of evidence. Police officers who arrested Golunov were suspended from active duty and two top interior ministry officials were dismissed.

During the protest, several journalists also were arrested along with opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, the Russian watchdog group OVD-Info reported. Navalny is a frequent critic of Putin and was barred from the ballot during the last election.

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"I'm loving the view," Navalny wrote in an Instagram post that included a photo of demonstrators taken from the barred window of a van where he was being held by police.

Moscow police said an estimated 1,200 people participated in the unauthorized protest and only 200 were detained, half what OVD-Info reported. Nearly 25,000 people said they were interested in attending on Facebook.

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The protest coincided with the national Russia Day holiday. Moscow authorities warned people not to show up to the protest.

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Golunov was arrested June 6 when police said they found drugs and evidence of a drug lab in his home. Fellow journalists at the Meduza news website rallied others to stand up for Golunov and media freedom. They believed the evidence was fabricated in retaliation for Golunov's investigative stories that looked at government corruption.

After a public outcry, Golunov, 36, was released from house arrest.

"We are all Golunov, after all," said Kira Churnikova, a business analytics student. "Nothing's finished until they jail those guilty of the case."

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Golunov said he wouldn't participate in the protest but planned to continue investigating government corruption for Meduza news.

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