35 opposition activists arrested in Russia

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Russian police said Tuesday they had arrested 35 activists gathered outside the prison where prominent Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is being detained.

"Thirty-five participants in an unauthorised rally in front of the prison on boulevard Simferopol number 7 were transferred to the police station," a police spokesperson told Ria Novosti news agency, adding that they would be fined.

The activists gathered Tuesday to support Nemtsov, who was arrested on December 31 at a rally and sentenced on Sunday to a 15-day detention for having "disobeyed police."

The dissident writer Eduard Limonov, leader of the youth wing of the liberal Yabloko group Ilya Yashin, and opponent Konstantin Kossiakine are also currently serving five- to ten-day detentions.

All four were arrested on December 31, an annual event when opposition leaders call regular demonstrations on that day in honour of Article 31 of the constitution, granting Russians freedom of assembly.

Russian police arrested 68 people in Moscow and 50 more in Saint-Petersburg.

Moscow authorities have until recent months refused to sanction such rallies, prompting frequent scuffles with the police.

But there was confusion at the December 31 demonstrations on Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow when a gathering headed by Nemtsov was authorised, whereas a separate Limonov-led rally at the same location was banned.

© 2011 AFP

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