Russian opposition protesters some holding portraits of political prisoners  shout anti-Putin slogans as they march through a street next to the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The banner reads liberty to the captives on May 6! for our and your freedom!

Russian opposition protesters some holding portraits of political prisoners shout anti-Putin slogans as they march through a street next to the Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The banner reads liberty to the captives on May 6! for our and your freedom! Photo: AP

Moscow: Thousands of Russian opposition activists have marched through Moscow to denounce President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule and call for the release of jailed anti-Kremlin protesters.

Led by anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, the protesters chanted "Divorce for Russia" and "Lyudmila without Putin. We should also divorce Putin," in reference to Putin's announcement last week that he and his wife Lyudmila of 30 years were divorcing.

Others chimed in with slogans like "One, two, three, Putin leave!" and "Russia without Putin" as they marched through central Moscow carrying anti-Putin placards and flags of all hues.

The protest dubbed the "March Against Butchers" was aimed at supporting 12 activists currently on trial for crowd violence at an opposition rally last year as well as jailed activists.

Some 10,000 people participated in the march, according to AFP correspondents, while the organisers put the turnout at 30,000. Police said that some 6000 people had turned up for the march, adding nine people had been detained.

At the height of protests a year ago, over 100,000 people took to the streets but the rallies have since died down.

Mr Navalny joined other prominent activists including Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister turned opposition leader, and poet Dmitry Bykov, at the march amid a heavy police presence.

Anastasia Yuriyeva, a 21-year-old student, said she joined the march to demand freedom for the 12 accused of violence at a rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration for a third term last May.

"They are behind bars without any reason," she said.

Yury Kosmynin, a manager, said he wanted Russia to be a democratic country. "Putin should have been fired a long time ago," he said. "His place is in prison."

Mr Navalny did not address supporters and his spokeswoman said he needed to leave for the central city of Kirov where he is standing trial on charges of embezzling $US500,000 ($A532,339) in a timber deal.

The opposition has been struggling to sustain the momentum of the protest movement in the face of a tough crackdown on dissenters unleashed after Putin returned for a third presidential term last May.

AFP