2,000 attend banned Moscow rock protest: AFP

22nd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Around 2,000 people Sunday crammed into a Moscow square amid a heavy police presence for a banned rock concert to protest plans to build a motorway through a forest outside the Russian capital.

The numbers were far higher than for past opposition demonstrations in Moscow but the concert failed to get off the ground after police refused to allow amplification gear through tight security, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.

However, veteran rocker Yuri Shevchuk, who opposed the Soviet regime and now the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, pleased his fans by climbing onto a stepladder and singing some of his best loved songs without a microphone.

Dozens of police vehicles and members of the feared OMON anti-riot police, equipped with helmets and bullet-proof vests, thronged the square.

The concert's aim was to buttress efforts by environmental activists to oppose the construction of a highway through Khimki forest outside Moscow, which has become a symbol for Russians fighting for their rights.

While the demonstration on Pushkin Square against the construction of the road had been sanctioned by the Moscow authorities, they had explicitly banned the holding of a concert.

Several opposition activists were detained ahead of the rally, including prominent campaigner Lev Ponomaryov, officials said.

"The problem is that -- for one reason or another -- the authorities are scared of people with guitars," Shevchuk told AFP as he arrived for the rally, clutching his guitar.

The Khimki forest is a "symbol of the civic struggle against the arbitrariness of the state," he added.

Shevchuk in May had openly challenged Putin telling him at a face-to-face meeting Russia was being ruled by "dukes and princes with sirens on their cars" and demonstrations are broken up by "repressive" security services.

© 2010 AFP

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