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Ilya Azar speaks with journalists near the court in Moscow, on Sept. 3, 2019.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Police in Moscow and St. Petersburg detained 35 people who came out to protest Friday, in violation of city coronavirus restrictions, against the arrest of a prominent Russian journalist, the Medizona news outlet said.

An opposition Moscow city council member, several journalists and activists were among those detained. Several people were reportedly let go, while others were taken to police stations.

A photo from the protest in St. Petersburg showed an activist who had chained himself to a lamppost, and police trying to cut the chain.

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The activists were protesting against the arrest of journalist Ilya Azar, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail the night before, also for holding a one-man protest amid the lockdown.

Moscow has banned “mass public events” to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Azar came to the city’s police headquarters to protest against the jailing, on extortion charges, of an activist who monitors police corruption.

His arrest elicited outrage among journalists and opposition activists. On Thursday, 13 people were detained for picketing the police headquarters.

Amnesty International, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council condemned the crackdown and urged authorities to release the protesters.

Activists argued that the staggered one-person pickets they were holding can’t be classified as “mass public events” and are therefore allowed. They vowed to continue pickets in Azar’s support despite police warnings about the ban on public events.

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