Russian police arrest Kremlin opponent, several others, at freedom-of-assembly demonstration

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Russian police arrest Kremlin opponent at rally

MOSCOW — Russian police arrested a leading Kremlin opponent and dozens of fellow activists Saturday at a demonstration demanding freedom of assembly.

Several hundred protesters gathered in a Moscow square chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” at the rally city authorities tried to ban.

An Associated Press reporter saw Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov dragged to a police car and driven away. The rally had barely started. Three or four others appeared to have been detained.

Police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said he wasn’t sure how many people had been detained in total, but human rights advocate Lev Ponomaryov said there were as many as 30 arrests.

“Authorities are just not listening to our demands,” Ponomaryov told AP.

Police encircled the remaining protesters, who defiantly held aloft signs reading “31″ to symbolize their movement, Strategy 31. The name refers to a plan by Kremlin opponents to hold such rallies on the last day of each month with 31 days — a nod to the Constitution’s Article 31 guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly.

Moscow authorities rarely give permission for the rallies, often saying another group had requested the same site for a different event. On Saturday, there was an automobile show on the square.

Meanwhile in Kiev, about 30 Ukrainian activists held a simultaneous rally at the capital’s main railway station in support of the Moscow demonstration. Police swiftly detained several of them, breaking up the rally.

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