Club-wielding, helmeted officers seized demonstrators and hauled them to police vehicles, dragging some by the hair. Among those arrested were three of the leaders of the opposition movement that gained new life over the winter: Sergei Udaltsov, Alexei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov.
Previous installments of an unprecedented wave of protests that burst out after fraud-plagued parliamentary elections in December had been marked by fastidious order. The crowds, sometimes as big as 100,000 or more, had carefully kept to agreed-upon meeting-places and routes, even making a point of thanking police who stood guard in vast numbers but did not interfere.
Sunday’s break in that pattern likely reflected a sense of anger and impotence among protesters upset that Putin was handily elected to a new term in the Kremlin despite their startling defiance.