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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Riot Police Beat St. Pete Protesters

APRiot police clashing with demonstrators in central St. Petersburg on Sunday.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Violence erupted at the end of an opposition rally Sunday in central St. Petersburg as riot police wielding truncheons beat and chased protesters walking to a nearby metro station.

Police detained more than 100 participants of the Dissenters' March, including Eduard Limonov, head of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party and one of the leaders of The Other Russia, which organized the march.

City authorities sanctioned the rally, which began at noon and was under heavy police surveillance -- including a helicopter -- at Pionerskaya Ploshchad. Authorities, however, did not grant protesters permission to march to St. Petersburg City Hall.

Participants began to disperse at around 2 p.m., and a group of them clashed with OMON riot police while walking to the nearby Pushkinskaya metro station.

The group started chanting "Shame, shame!" and riot police began to chase protesters, beating several of them with batons and hitting others in their path, including several elderly women.

"The police were beating people without even looking at them," said Maxim Reznik, head of the liberal Yabloko party's St. Petersburg branch.

City police said 120 protesters had been detained, though Reznik said several hundred activists were detained and dozens beaten. City police said only about 500 demonstrators turned out for the rally, while organizers put the figure at around 3,000.

Reznik was detained by police while walking home after the protest.

Before the clashes broke out, protesters shouted for Governor Valentina Matviyenko to resign and called President Vladimir Putin an enemy of the state.

"It shows how scared the authorities are, and they are scared for a good reason," Limonov said at the rally, referring to the heavy police presence.

Authorities have "started a war on their own people," Limonov said.

Limonov was detained later at the apartment of a National Bolshevik member, group spokesman Alexander Averin told Ekho Moskvy radio. The reason for his detention was unclear Sunday evening.

Earlier in the day, rows of riot police tightly cordoned off the designated meeting place, and a wider police cordon, which included metal detectors, surrounded the entire square.

After the demonstration began, a crowd of protesters began to build up outside the cordon. The helicopter hovered low over the scene.

An elderly woman among the protesters called the number of police "shocking."