Moscow officials slam 'provocative' opposition rally demand
Moscow authorities on Friday criticised as a "provocation" a demand by the opposition to hold a mass rally in central Moscow, just a day after a surprise decision to permit a smaller event.
Moscow city hall, led by a new mayor since Thursday, slammed a demand by the opposition to hold a rally of 1,500 people on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad square on October 31.
The city government in a statement Friday said it could "only regard as a provocation" the request, after it gave organisers permission for a rally of 200 people, the Interfax news agency reported.
The organisers of the "Strategy 31" demonstrations attempt to hold rallies on the last day of every month of 31 days in reference to Article 31 of the Russian constitution which permits peaceful demonstrations.
On Thursday, the city hall told organisers 200 people could rally, in the first such concession as Kremlin-backed Sergei Sobyanin took over as mayor from Yury Luzhkov.
But the organisers, who include veteran rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva and radical leftist leader Eduard Limonov, insisted on a total of 1,500 people.
"The request was for 1,500 people and even more may turn up," Alexeyeva said in her blog Thursday.
Officials said organisers had until Monday to accept the offer or change the venue. Organisers said that the rally would go ahead anyway.
The rally was seen as a test of the attitude of the new mayor Sobyanin, a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Luzhkov, sacked by President Dmitry Medvedev last month, insisted the protests could only be held in a park, and riot police regularly broke up unsanctioned rallies.
The city authorities refused 12 requests to protest in the square. On August 31, police detained scores of activists, sparking criticism from members of the European Parliament at the scene.
Last week, Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov mocked the rally as a "burlesque" that gave rise to "paper heroes and virtual martyrs."
"I am sure the new mayor will find the right solution," Surkov told Vzglyad news website.
© 2010 AFP