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14.12.2008

Russia: heavy-handed methods used to stop opposition protests

   

On Sunday police and riot squads detained a large number of opposition activists trying to hold “Marches of those in dissent [marsh niesoglasnych] in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

According to the radio station, in Moscow around 500 people took part in the demonstration. Official police sources claim that 90 demonstrators were detained. Other sources – Echo Moskvy, www.grani.ru for example, say that people were taken into custody in a very rough manner.

A number of journalists were among those detained. One of them, from Grani.ru, Vsevolod Milman, says that he is charged with an administrative offence – taking part in an unauthorized march. He has now been released however a court hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.

The BBC report that in St Petersburg, police blocked 100 protesters from marching on the city’s main thoroughfare, arresting 10 people

According to the Grani.ru correspondent, the police detained around 50 high-ranking military men who joined the march. Before the march began, one of the generals and member of the “Union of Soviet Officers” Alexei Fomin expressed the hope that the police and OMON [riot squad] would not lay hands on veterans. However according to the website of one of the opposition leaders, Garry Kasparov, the riot police were particularly rough in detaining the military men. 

Ten members of the “My” [“We” ] movement, including its leader Roman Dobrokhotov were detained for a protest action entitled “Pushkin instead of Putin”. The opposition activists came out onto the street with volumes of poetry which they began reading aloud before also been forced into police vans by members of the riot squad.

At the same time around 80 people took part in an alternative March which had not been publicly announced. This one included activists from the Avant garde of Red Youth, as well as the movements “Smena” [“Change”] and “Free Radicals”.

That march was also attended by the Chair of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Board Oleg Orlov.

The police were taken unawares and did not have time to mobilise forces against this alternative march. However at the end, some pro-Kremlin youth activists attempted provocation, chanting absurd slogans. This is not the first time that the opposition have organized an alternative march in order to counter the predictable response of the authorities.

From information at the sources mentioned above

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