MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained on Saturday dozens of umbrella-wielding demonstrators protesting after three television providers dropped a station that made its name covering massive street demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin
The arrests follow reports of the detention of up to 14 gay rights activists on Friday, the day of the opening of Sochi Olympic Games - an event which has drawn international criticism of Russia’s human rights record.
Saturday’s demonstrators had gathered near Moscow’s Red Square to protest the “censorship” of Dozhd (TV Rain), an independent-minded television station which has aired aggressive reporting critical of Russian authorities and even-handed broadcasts on Ukraine’s anti-government protests.
Policemen frogmarched protesters to vans after they unfurled umbrellas to show their support for TV Rain.
“I’m shocked. When they began opening umbrellas police started detaining them. It was like: ‘If you open an umbrella, proceed to the police bus’,” Yekaterina, a Dozhd supporter, said, giving only her first name.
Dozhd, which faced criticism after asking on its website if Leningrad, now St Petersburg, should have been surrendered to Nazi Germany to save lives during a World War Two blockade, was dropped by three TV providers in and around Moscow in late January.
It has now been dropped by all major TV providers but can still be viewed via its own website.
The station said the move amounted to “censorship and pressure”, a sentiment echoed by protesters on Saturday.
“We want to protect the freedom of media in our country...Now they attack Dozhd. We want at least some remnants of freedom to stay on in our country,” said supporter Arina, standing under an umbrella next to her young son.
Around 40 people were detained in total, Russian newswire Interfax reported, citing a police spokesman.
Writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Ralph Boulton