Hundreds arrested in Moscow protests over journalist's arrest

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Ivan Golunov was given a warm welcome after his release

Russian police detained more than 400 people on Wednesday, including opposition politician Alexei Navalny, at a protest in Moscow calling for punishment for police officers involved in the alleged framing of a journalist, the OVD-Info monitoring group said.

Local media said more than 2500 people had taken part in the rally, although authorities said it was less than half that number. "More than 200 people have been detained for committing an administrative offense under Article 20.2 of the Russian Criminal Code", a police spokesman said. On the eve of the march the Kremlin said the protest could interfere with festivities for Russia Day, a public holiday. The protest was scheduled before Golunov's drug charges were dropped and he was set free, but organizers made a decision to have it anyway, changing the focus to the police officers. "Have you forgotten the constitution?"

Police abruptly dropped drug charges a day earlier against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, a rare U-turn by the authorities in the face of anger from his supporters who said he was targeted over his reporting. According to the Interior Ministry's main Moscow office, Golunov was carrying four grams of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant drug, while five grams of cocaine were found during a search of his rented apartment.

At least four journalists were detained including a producer for Der Spiegel, a German news magazine.

Mr Navalny tweeted that the government had become very anxious by the "fantastic and unanimous expression of solidarity in the Golunov case" and was now setting about destroying that solidarity and intimidating and jailing those who persevered. His arrest sparked a public outcry and triggered unprecedented solidarity among media, with three top newspapers publishing the same front page: "I am/we are Ivan Golunov" in giant letters on Monday.

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Supporters of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and other protesters gather to attend a march in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

Golunov said he wouldn't participate in the protest but planned to continue investigating government corruption for Meduza news. Many at the march called for reforms of Russia's tainted law enforcement agencies and the release from prison of many victims of police abuse.

Some urged the release of political prisoners including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. As police dragged protesters into vans the crowd yelled: "Shame, on Russia Day, this is our country's day!" The ceremony was taking place at the same time as the protest in the city.

A young man in Ivan Golunov t-shirt told DW: "We came today because we want those who are guilty to be punished". "We were lucky that Ivan was freed but it was a small victory - we haven't won the war".

Golunov's case has also sparked debates over the need to reform the law on drug possession in Russian Federation, which, critics, say, have been used to silence opposition figures and truth-seeking journalists. It said police had started to release some of them without charge while drawing up charges against others.

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