Russian opposition protest Moscow mayor's heatwave handling

12th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian police broke up a rally by opposition activists Thursday protesting Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov's handling of the deadly heatwave that has plagued the capital.

Several dozen activists gathered outside Moscow's city hall in the evening for the illegal protest, where they were quickly surrounded by riot police.

Around 20 people were arrested including veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov and Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov, who was prevented from joining the demonstration.

Luzhkov, who has run Moscow for the past 20 years, has come in for heavy criticism for refusing to return from holiday at the peak of the crisis, when the city was blanketed by toxic smog.

Authorities admitted the mortality rate had doubled in the city during the heatwave, but a full death toll has not been released.

"So many elderly died during this heatwave. The authorities are responsible because they didn't warn anybody, they didn't do anything," 80-year-old protestor Olga Kulikova told AFP.

The riot police also came in for criticism from the protestors, who shouted: "What are you doing here? Go and fight the fires!"

© 2010 AFP

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