Russia: Police violence goes viral

A video of a woman being punched in the stomach during a protest in Moscow, Russia, has gone viral, drawing attention to an often violent police crackdown on demonstrations that have rocked the country for the past month.

The images of 26-year-old Daria Sosnovskaya being hit by a police officer as she was arrested at a protest on Saturday have been shared nearly 400,000 times on social media.

"Police officers started running towards me," she told the Mediazona website. "It was extremely unpleasant. I immediately had cramps everywhere, I couldn't breathe," she said.

The protests began after opposition candidates were barred from Moscow’s parliamentary elections next month and are some of the biggest seen in the country since President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.

An estimated 60,000 demonstrators took to the streets for Saturday’s protest, the largest so far, while hundreds of demonstrators have been detained by police.

Russia has defended the tactics used by police during the protests despite international criticism.

"We believe the firm action of law enforcement to curb public unrest was absolutely justified," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday.