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Hundreds protest in southern Russian against coronavirus curbs

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Hundreds of people protested against regional authorities in southern Russia on Monday over what they said were restrictive and unnecessary coronavirus measures, state-owned TV and demonstrators said.

The forced closure of businesses across Russia and the imposition of strict self-isolation measures has caused economic pain to many households, particularly in Russia’s regions, where salaries are lower and the virus less entrenched.

Russia has reported 47,121 cases of the coronavirus so far, but the Republic of North Ossetia in southern Russia, where Monday’s protest took place, has officially registered only 145 cases and two deaths.

Vyacheslav Bitarov, the head of the republic, addressed protesters in the regional capital, Vladikavkaz. Video footage showed hundreds of protesters packed tightly into a square, with police officers in riot gear looking on.

None of the protesters, some of whom were detained according to local media reports, appeared to be wearing masks.

One protester, Vadim Cheldiev, set out his demands in a post on his Telegram channel of around 10,000 subscribers. They included the resignation of the regional government and head of the republic and new elections.

“Today, under the pretext of the coronavirus, which doesn’t exist, people are driven into slavery, they are trying to establish total control over us all,” said Cheldiev in a video.

The Rossiya Alania TV channel’s website described the protests as “unauthorised action.”

“Many employees of the Interior Ministry and Rosgvardiya (Russia’s National Guard) are around. The OMON (riot police) cordoned off the government building.”

The Kremlin has given regional governors wide leeway to take their own measures to try to halt the spread of the virus.

In Moscow and other cities, some users of internet giant Yandex’s Navigator mobile application posted complaints to authorities by using the same system usually used to mark traffic incidents, tagging locations near the Kremlin.

“My business has burned because of you!” read one anonymous post.

Another said: “There is nothing to feed children!!”

Additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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