Russian opposition to press ahead with '31' protest

26th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian opposition activists vowed to press ahead with a demonstration in Moscow on Tuesday urging freedom of assembly, despite pressure from authorities to cancel the event.

"Of course we are going to protest on August 31," veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva said at a news conference.

The protest due at Moscow's Triumfalnaya Square is one of a series of "Strategy 31" protests organised for the 31st day of the month in reference to Article 31 in the Russian constitution which permits peaceful demonstrations.

Access to the square was closed on Wednesday after the local government said it wanted to build a car park, a decision the opposition viewed as political pressure.

"I have the feeling that Russian society is starting to wake up" just like in the 1990s, Alexeyeva said.

Organisers said the "31" demonstrations had already taken place in more than 40 Russian cities, despite being banned by authorities and protestors being detained.

"If we stop, others will take our place, because the Pandora's Box is already open," said Konstantin Kosyakin, leader of the far-left Levy Front movement.

On Wednesday gay rights campaigners said they would join the protest on August 31.

A member of the opposition Solidarity movement, Mikhail Shneyder, was on Thursday sentenced to three days in prison for "insubordination towards a police officer". Shneyder had joined a banned march in central Moscow Sunday.

Human rights campaigner Lev Ponomarev had been sentenced to the same prison term for the same offence on Wednesday.

An authorised rally in support of the two drew about 30 people in Moscow late Thursday, Interfax news agency said.

© 2010 AFP

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