(ABC NEWS) MOSCOW – When riot police forcibly dispersed a crowd that lingered after an anti-Putin protest in central Moscow a day after Russia’s presidential election in March, many in the crowd sensed an ominous change in the air.
By the time protestors clashed with riot police May 6, the eve of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration, there was little doubt in most people’s minds: Putin’s patience with the opposition was over.
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The next day, as Putin’s motorcade drove through Moscow’s deserted streets on the way to an opulent swearing in ceremony in the Kremlin, police raided cafes popular with opposition leaders and detained anyone wearing the opposition’s iconic white ribbons. For the next week, police harassed roving groups of protestors who were guilty of little more than gathering without signs in a public square.