Russians outraged by the forthcoming commencement of new presidential term of Vladimir Putin protested on Saturday at various cities across the country. The protest was capped by the police who responded by arresting nearly 1600 protestors.

During the protest, many outraged Russians chanted “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia will be free!” Demonstrations under the slogan “He is not our czar” took place throughout Russia, from Yakutsk in the far northeast to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad towards the border of Russia with Europe.

Police also used batons against protesters soon detaining around 1,600. Among those arrested was protest organizer Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is Putin’s most prominent enemy.

“I think that Putin isn’t worthy of leading this country. He has been doing it for 18 years and has done nothing good for it,” said Moscow demonstrator Dmitry Nikitenko.  “He should leave for good.” he added.

According to OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political repression, said late on Saturday that 1,599 people were detained at demonstrations in 26 Russian cities with 702 arrested in Moscow alone, and another 232 in St Petersburg.

Navalny was to be charged for disobeying police, an offense that carries a sentence of up to 15 days, news reports said, though when he would be prosecuted was not immediately clear.

In St Petersburg, police barricaded a stretch of Nevsky Prospekt as a crowd of about 1,000 marched along the renowned avenue.

Vladimir Putin is to be inaugurated for a new six-year presidential term on Monday after winning re-election in the month of March with 77 percent of the vote. Navalny had hoped to challenge him on the ballot but was blocked because of a felony conviction in a case that his supporters consider as falsified in order to defeat him in the elections.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert criticized the Russian police for the arrests. “The United States condemns #Russia’s detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters and calls for their immediate release. Leaders who are secure in their own legitimacy don’t arrest their peaceful opponents for protesting,” she tweeted

Saturday’s protests attracted crowds of hundreds in cities that are quite far away from Moscow. The protests showed that though Navalny’s opposition is considered suppressed by Russian officials and largely ignored by state-controlled television, has significant support in much of the country.