Several thousand Russians marched through central Moscow on Sunday to protest against President Vladimir Putin and a recent crackdown on social activists as well as Putin's political opponents.
Protesters chanted "Putin is a thief" and "Freedom to political prisoners!" as they marched, carrying flags and portraits of those viewed as victims of Putin's political persecution, including jailed former Yukos oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, members of the female punk band Pussy Riot and the 30 jailed activists from the Greenpeace Arctic ship.
Police estimated the turnout at 4,500 while an AFP correspondent said the crowd numbered at least 6,000, with some participants saying as many as 10,000 may have taken part in the march.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was convicted in a controversial fraud case but was freed with a suspended termearlier this month, said the main reason for the rally was to demand freedom for those jailed after protesting in May last year against Putin's inauguration.
"The authorities are working on an amnesty project," he told journalists while walking alongside his wife Yulia. "Our goal is to push for policial prisoners to be included in this project."
"The opposition's fight is endless, and rather tiring," Navalny said, adding that anyone who thinks the Russian strongman could be "dethroned" quickly were being "very naive".
The so-called Bolotnaya case, against those arrested after the May 6, 2012 rally, has already seen one person sentenced to jail and another sent to a mental institution for forced psychiatric care.
The protesters also demanded the release of 30 Greenpeace activists being held in pre-trial detention after attempting to scale an oil platform in the Barents Sea to protest against Arctic oil exploration. The 30 were initially charged with piracy but the charges were later reduced to hooliganism, which still carries a possible seven-year prison term.
Russians took to the streets in huge numbers in the winter of 2011-2012, protesting over allegations of vote-rigging and Putin's monopoly on power, but the demonstrations have lost momentum after a string of cases against protesters and new legislation introducing heavy fines.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)