MOSCOW — A wave of anti-government demonstrations rolled across Russia on Monday as thousands of people gathered in scores of cities to protest corruption and political stagnation despite vigorous attempts by authorities to thwart or ban the rallies.
Police detained the architect of the national protests, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as he emerged from his apartment building to attend a rally that he had forced into the center of Moscow. He was sentenced to 30 days in prison. There were scattered reports of hundreds of detentions elsewhere, too.
The protests were the broadest anti-government outpouring in Russia in years, with people in more cities heeding Navalny's call than his last series of demonstrations in March.
Organizers in more than 200 cities across Russia had filed requests to hold demonstrations Monday, trying to revive a popular opposition that had been somnolent since a violent crackdown in 2011 and 2012. Protests unfolded Monday in more than 100 cities as the sun moved westward, even in some where they had been banned outright.
Russian news media reported an estimated 5,000 people turned out in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the largest crowds since demonstrations in 1991 calling for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Protest organizers estimated 4,000 participants in the southwestern Siberian city of Omsk, and 2,000 in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, though the police estimates in those cities were less than half of those totals.
In Moscow, Navalny set the stage for a confrontation with the police by insisting that demonstrators ignore the officially sanctioned venue and gather instead on Tverskaya Street, the main boulevard leading toward the Kremlin and Red Square.
After he was detained, his wife posted a picture of the incident on his Twitter account with the caption "Happy Russia Day!" referring to the national holiday Monday. In addition, workers at his headquarters reported that their electricity and internet connection, used to transmit updates from around the country, had been severed.
Initial reports from OVD.info, an independent organization that tracks arrests, said around 670 people had been detained in Moscow and 300 were arrested in St. Petersburg.
In Vladivostok, home to Russia's Pacific fleet, where at least 11 protesters were detained, according to OVD-Info, the crowds were peaceful if wily in their efforts to avoid the riot police.
The rally broke up after riot police plunged into the crowd and dragged away several protesters.