MOSCOW — Anti-corruption protests continued across Russia on Sunday, days after President Vladimir Putin admitted Russia has a problem with state corruption.
The protests hit the capital and several other cities, but attendance was notably smaller than the week before, when Russians took to the streets in droves demanding government reforms to tackle the issue.
More than 30 protesters were detained Sunday in central Moscow near Triumfalnaya Square, according to state news agency TASS, in an area that has become the usual site of the “opposition walk.” Another seven activists were detained at nearby Manezhnaya Square, said TASS, quoting police.
The Russian nonprofit OVD-Info reported higher numbers: 44 people arrested in Moscow on Sunday. A young man carrying the Russian constitution in his hands was the first detained at Manezhnaya Square.
There were also small protests in Saint Petersburg and Samara.
The largest rally was in Novosibirsk, where several hundred people attended an anti-corruption protest held in solidarity with those arrested last Sunday. The coordinator of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s office in the city said 1,000 people had attended. Other estimates put the number at several hundred.
Moscow police released a statement Friday warning that any protest actions in Moscow set for the weekend would be considered unauthorized, because no applications for holding a mass event had been submitted to the Moscow City Hall. “Law enforcement agencies will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of residents and visitors of the capital,” police said.
Last week’s protests — the largest mass demonstrations in years– organized by Navalny’s camp, focused on Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who Navalny accuses of accumulating vast wealth through “bribes from oligarchs and state bank loans.” Nearly 500 people were detained in Moscow, including Navalny.
But despite the detentions and efforts by the government to prevent unrest, the movement, which largely reflects the disillusion of the younger generation fed up with endemic corruption, inequality and lack of accountability and opportunities, doesn’t seem to lose momentum.
Sergey Pravov, a young geologist who was among those arrested last week, said young people are “tired of the impunity of officials and their children and relatives who can get away with anything.”
“They are tired of living below the poverty line while people they pay to rule wisely are swimming in gold,” Pravov said.
Their message didn’t go unnoticed by the Kremlin. On Thursday, while speaking at the Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted, “Corruption is indeed a serious problem for us.”
“This is relevant, and we are working on it, ” he said, adding, “The only thing that I think is wrong is for certain political forces to try to use this in their own interests, for self-promotion in the political arena ahead of political events such as elections rather than to improve the situation.”
When asked about measures that are taken to tackle the issue, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the next day, “It is a constant process, it’s not a one-time activity.”
“We are constantly working on new initiatives in the fields of law, law enforcement, developing initiatives for various monitoring institutions,” he said.
Demonstrators say clear results are yet to be seen and until that happens, all they can do is keep protesting.