Moscow police arrest opposition leader, dozens at protest
Moscow police arrested opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and dozens of activists in a bid to stop a new protest rally in the Russian capital alleging that elections were rigged in favour of Vladimir Putin's ruling party.
Police in anti-riot gear hauled them off into vans parked near the protest on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad in central Moscow, an AFP correspondent said.
Hundreds of opposition supporters turned out for the protest but were vastly outnumbered by members of pro-Kremlin youth groups who also appeared, noisily banging drums in support of Putin's ruling party United Russia.
The pro-Kremlin youth shouted "Victory to (President Dmitry) Medvedev" and "The future is with us."
The riot police -- known by activists as "the cosmonauts" for their shiny helmets -- held back opposition supporters at the edge of the square, not allowing them to go in.
Periodically, the police linked arms and moved through the square, pushing back the opposition protesters.
Opposition supporters shouted "Shame on you fascists!" and "Russia without Putin" in a tense stand-off with the members of pro-Kremlin youth.
Olga Shorina, spokeswoman for the Solidarnost (Solidarity) opposition movement, told AFP that 10 riot police detained Nemtsov, who is a former cabinet minister.
Among others detained were Ilya Ponomaryov, an MP with the populist party A Just Russia.
Oleg Orlov, the head of the Memorial human rights centre who took part in the rally, told AFP: "Police are behaving in a rough, rude manner, pushing people."
The police had warned earlier that participants in unsanctioned rallies would be arrested after the opposition on Monday staged a thousands-strong protest against Sunday's elections. Interior ministry troops were also deployed in central Moscow.
In Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, around 300 opposition supporters tried to stage a rally on the main Nevsky Prospekt avenue, shouting "shame!". But around 50 people were arrested, an AFP correspondent reported.
© 2011 AFP