Russian police arrest Kasparov

Russian riot police detained as many as 200 demonstrators Saturday, including opposition leader and former chess champion Garry Kasparov, in a crackdown on a banned protest in central Moscow.

Russian police arrest Kasparov

Thousands of riot police and interior ministry soldiers in camouflage battledress flooded the city centre to prevent a march by The Other Russia, a coalition of groups that accuse President of dismantling democracy.Kasparov, one of the leaders of The Other Russia, was detained as he attempted to lead demonstrators on to the historic Pushkin Square, an AFP correspondent saw.

About 200 activists were seen being detained and loaded on to police buses. Many were quickly released.Kasparov was later taken to a low level court and his lawyer said the chess legend had been charged with demonstrating illegally, Russian news agencies reported.

Opposition leaders had been warned not to gather on Pushkin Square and the authorities took no chances, deploying about 9,000 police and soldiers, according to official figures.

"What's going on with the authorities? Have they lost their minds? What's going on with this military operation?" asked former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, as paramilitary OMON police blocked him from entering Pushkin Square.Tensions are rising ahead of the March 2008 presidential election to replace Putin, who is constitutionally required to step down at the end of his second term.

Putin, who has overseen rapid economic growth in Russia, is widely popular. Opponents say this is largely the result of a powerful state media machine and the marginalisation of real opponents.

The Other Russia -- ranging from pro-Western liberals to radical leftists -- dubbed its protest Saturday the "March of Dissent." Another, similar march is planned in the northern city of Saint Petersburg on Sunday.

"We are pushing for change through elections. But we want real, free elections, not imitations, in our country," Kasyanov told supporters.

The demonstration comes after one of Putin's most outspoken critics, multi-millionaire Boris Berezovsky, said he was planning a "revolution" from his exile in London.

Moscow called on London to expel Berezovsky, who has political asylum in Britain, following the comments published Friday in The Guardian newspaper.

The episode further strained ties between Britain and Russia, already badly frayed by the mysterious poisoning in London of another exiled Russian, Alexander Litvinenko.

Moscow is also at loggerheads with Washington over recent US government reports criticising the state of democracy in Russia.

The Other Russia activists had hoped to gather on Pushkin Square, a major crossroads near the Kremlin, despite a ban by the city authorities.

After being blocked, hundreds of protestors marched toward a site outside the city centre, where they were authorised to rally.

"We need another Russia!" they chanted. "Russia without Putin!"

A spokesman for Moscow police, Viktor Biryukov, told ITAR-TASS news agency that 9,000 police and troops were deployed to control both the opposition and a series of other demonstrations, including by the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Guard.

The last two marches by The Other Russia -- one in Saint Petersburg and one in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia's fourth largest city east of Moscow, were violently dispersed. A third, held in Moscow last December, gathered approximately 2,000 people and 7,000 police.

"This was a gross violation of human rights," the respected head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, told Interfax after Saturday's rally.

"This was a violation of the constitution, according to which Russian citizens have the right to demonstrate."

Echo of Moscow radio, considered one of the few remaining independent broadcasters in the country, reported that police were drafted in from across Russia for the event.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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