Russia's Interior Ministry claims to have evidence showing some members of the March of Dissent were paid for protesting on the weekend. There were clashes between riot police and the demonstrators, although no reported injuries.
"In Saint Petersburg three elderly women approached a group of our officers. They said the organisers promised to pay them 500 roubles for participating in the rally and 3,000 roubles if they take part in the clashes. However, they failed to keep their promise. So, these ladies asked us to find these "swindlers," as they called them," Aleksandr Chekalin from the Interior Ministry said.
Opposition activists held unsanctioned marches against President Putin and his policies. Under the rules, they were only allowed to hold a rally, but not to march.
Authorities say the police acted as the demonstrators began to walk through the streets instead of staying in the sanctioned location.
Dozens were detained, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who was jailed for five days.
Russian police say their actions during the March of Dissent held on the weekend were lawful, considerate and benevolent.
Russia's Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov called the rally a provocation.
The Interior Ministry suspects the rallies are being financed from abroad.
On Monday, the White House and the U.S. State Department expressed concern over the detentions.
"The U.S. is concerned by reports of aggressive tactics used by Russian authorities against opposition protestors in Moscow and other cities. We are particularly concerned by the arrests and detentions of leaders of the opposition, including Garry Kasparov, and call for them to be given proper access to legal counsel and fair treatment in processing," said Sean McCormack from the U.S. State Department.
Moscow, for its part, did not linger over its response. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the Western reaction hypocritical.
Peskov said that these statements sharply contrasted with Washington's mild criticism when police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse an opposition rally in Georgia. The spokesman noted around half a thousand were hospitalised in Tbilisi - while in Russia the scenes were far less dramatic. ( RT )