On Saturday, protesters gathered again in central Moscow to demand free elections. Police responded by detaining nearly 700 people, reports the Reuters news agency, citing the independent organization OVD that maps arrests during demonstrations.

The arrests should have taken place about two hours into the demonstration, after the crowd marched along one of Moscow's central boulevards.

The activists Ljubov Sobol arrested

One of those who were deprived of liberty is the lawyer and activist Ljubov Sobol, who was refused to stand in the local elections this fall.

According to the police's own figures, about 1,500 people participated in the demonstration. However, both Reuters and the AFP news agency report that the actual number was likely to be significantly greater.

The protests in Russia, which began on July 14, are based on the fact that several opposition candidates have been refused to stand in Moscow's local elections on September 8. On July 20, upwards of 20,000 people gathered in the capital.

"Atmosphere of state control"

Since then, leading protest leaders, including opposition figurehead Aleksej Navalny, have been imprisoned and several activists risk long prison sentences for "mass riots". Nevertheless, new demonstrations have been arranged every weekend.

- I want to see big changes. Now there is an atmosphere of total state control, 22-year-old Varvara, who participates in today's demonstration, tells AFP.

In parallel with the Moscow protest, a thousand people in Saint Petersburg also gathered to show their opposition candidates their support, reports the Russian news agency Interfax.

Called overwhelmed by the UN

Sharp international condemnations have been directed against Russia during the week. Both the UN Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) and the EU's foreign chief describe the police's conduct at the demonstration on July 27, when 1,400 activists were arrested, as an assault.

- The condemnations don't seem to matter. Russia sees this as a domestic issue, says Gudrun Persson, research leader at the Total Defense Research Institute (FOI).

Putin loses

The protests coincide with weak public figures for President Vladimir Putin.

According to the state opinion poll Vtsiom's survey in June, almost 32 percent of the population have confidence in Putin - the lowest result in 13 years, according to Reuters. However, it was not long before the Institute revised its results. With the help of a different question, the figure was drastically higher and landed at 72 percent.

Putin's declining popularity is closely linked to a deteriorating economy, according to Gudrun Persson. Disappointment pyr - not least after last year's criticized pension reform.

- The retirement age was raised and people got less money in their pockets. It was perceived as a betrayal. Real incomes have also fallen for the fifth consecutive year and VAT has been increased from 18 to 20 percent, Persson says.

Problem 2024

On the part of the authorities, Moscow's local elections are really a minor problem, according to Gudrun Persson. On the horizon, another cloud of concern is growing ever more - the presidential election of 2024. According to the Russian Constitution, a people-elected president can only sit for two terms of office. For Vladimir Putin's part, by today's rules, he means he will not be able to run again.

- In Russia it is called "problem 2024". For how is it actually to ensure the survival of the authoritarian system when Putin's term expires? It is a top-notch system that serves significant special interests, including the energy and defense sectors. There is no desire to see any major changes, ”says Gudrun Persson.