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Home News Russian writers lead 10,000 on opposition march

Russian writers lead 10,000 on opposition march

Published on 13/05/2012

About 10,000 people, including several acclaimed writers, joined a march against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the biggest rally since his inauguration to a third term last week.

Police kept a low profile while the marchers refrained from chanting political slogans or waving placards in what organisers said was officially a citizens’ march, not an anti-government demonstration.

The tolerance of the police, who temporarily closed some streets to traffic for the march, was in sharp contrast to the violent repression of demonstrations, and hundreds of arrests, over the past week.

Police did not disperse the protesters even though the city did not formally approve their march and they blocked traffic as they advanced along Moscow’s famous boulevard ring.

Moscow police said only some 2,000 people took part, reporting no significant problems aside from “traffic difficulties”, while organisers and AFP correspondents put the number at about 10,000.

Russian novelist Boris Akunin — whose period detective novels have been translated into many languages — had called on his blog for the protest to take the form of a walk between monuments to two great names in Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin and Alexander Griboyedov.

Akunin has attended opposition rallies and taken part in a celebrity group that urged people to act as vote monitors during the presidential poll.

On Sunday he said wryly that “the purpose of our operation is to understand whether it is possible for Moscovites to walk freely in their city or if it is necessary to have special permission.”

He and other cultural figures — including writer Dmitry Bykov, musician Andrei Makarevich and novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya — signed books and gave autographs as the procession made its way through the city.

“It’s nice to see how the Russians like to read and take account of what their writers are saying,” remarked the poet Dmitry Bykov, one of the organisers of the march, commenting on the turnout.

Many marchers congregated near a peaceful sit-in where opposition activists have camped out since May 9 after riot police dispersed other gatherings.

Authorities have detained hundreds of people over the past week, starting with a major protest rally on May 6 before Putin’s inauguration to a third term that turned violent and has led to a criminal probe into activists.

Police have not yet tried to clear the opposition camp, where more than 1,000 people gather each evening, and more than 100 stay overnight.