Russia arrested around 150 people, including leaders of the opposition, at Reuters’ Moscow meeting


© Reuters. Former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky poses for a picture after an interview with Reuters in central London

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian police arrested around 150 people at a meeting of independent and opposition politicians in Moscow on Saturday and accused them of links to an “undesirable organization,” a surveillance group and TV station said.

The arrests come amid anti-Kremlin sentiment after the arrest and detention of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who returned to Russia in January after being poisoned with nerve agents in Siberia.

The forum, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, was a meeting of MPs from across the country, Andrei Pivovarov, organizer and executive director of the event from Open Russia, a UK-based group founded by exiled exiled oil magnate and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Radio station Echo Moskvy.

When the forum started, the police entered the building and began arresting the attendees and taking them to police vans waiting outside. Video footage from TV Rain and Russian news agencies showed this.

OVD-Info, which oversees the detention of political protesters and activists, released a list of more than 150 people alleged to have been detained.

“The police came to the Moscow City MPs Forum. There are 150 people from all over the country. Everyone is arrested. I mean everyone,” opposition politician Ilya Yashin wrote on Twitter.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice president of the Free Russia Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit, shared a picture of the inside of a police car after he was arrested.

Police said all participants were arrested for “activities by an undesirable organization,” TV Rain reported.

Open Russia is one of more than 30 groups that Moscow has classified as undesirable and forbidden under a law passed in 2015.

Rights advocates say the laws on “undesirable” organizations and “foreign agents” can be used to pressure and target members of civil society. Russia denies this, saying the laws are necessary to protect its national security from outside interference.

(This story corrects the spelling of the opposition politician’s name in paragraph 6)

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