Russian police arrest dozens at opposition protests
Russian police arrested dozens of opposition activists at unauthorised human rights rallies denouncing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow and Saint Petersburg on Sunday.
In Triumfalnaya Square in the capital, several hundred people gathered for a regular rally aimed at highlighting Article 31 of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly.
Police arrested at least five people as activists held placards criticising Putin.
The rally was held in the same square as a rare authorised protest by human rights groups, and activists forced police to remove barriers and metal detectors to allow the groups to meet.
"This demonstration is our shared success," said Ludmila Alexeyeva, the veteran head of the Moscow branch of the Helsinki Group, a human rights group involved in organising the authorised demonstration.
"In Russia, as in the Soviet Union, authorities do not respect constitutional rights," she said.
Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and liberal opposition politican, said that demonstrators would march to the Kremlin in the next "Strategy 31" march in December.
In the centre of the country's second city Saint Petersburg meanwhile, police arrested about 60 people as around 300 protesters gathered, brandishing copies of the country's constitution.
Russia's small but vocal opposition stages regular protests, chiefly in Moscow, which rarely receive official authorisation and often result in police rounding up demonstrators.
© 2010 AFP