Second Day of Protests Against Putin in Russia


Richard Moore

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Second Day of Protests Against Putin in Russia
    By Clifford J. Levy
    The New York Times
    Monday 26 November 2007

Moscow - On a second day of rallies against President Vladimir V. Putin, riot 
police officers broke up a protest in St. Petersburg on Sunday, detaining 
numerous marchers, including two prominent politicians.

The unrest came a day after a similar event in Moscow ended with the arrest of 
Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and opposition leader, whose 
coalition, Other Russia, has declared that Mr. Putin is turning Russia into a 
dictatorship. A judge sentenced Mr. Kasparov to five days in jail.

Similar demonstrations across Russia this weekend, a week before parliamentary 
elections, were either banned or squelched by the police.

With the economy strong and the nation stable after the turmoil of the 1990s, 
Mr. Putin is widely popular here, and Mr. Kasparov's movement has only a small 
following. Mr. Putin's party, United Russia, is expected to win an overwhelming 
majority in the elections, aided by the Kremlin's control over government 
agencies and the news media.

Still, the Kremlin is showing little tolerance for public opposition to the 
president. In addition to the police crackdowns, government television has all 
but ignored Other Russia.

On Sunday in St. Petersburg, Mr. Putin's hometown, reporters said riot police 
officers beat and manhandled scores of protesters as they tried to meet at 
Palace Square, in the city's heart. Mr. Kasparov's coalition said more than 300 
people were detained, with most released later.

Among them were Boris Y. Nemtsov and Nikita Y. Belykh, leaders of the Union of 
Right Forces, a mainstream liberal party that had only recently joined Mr. 
Kasparov's coalition.

"They have forbidden us from discussing Putin," Mr. Nemtsov told marchers, 
according to Reuters. "But we have come here today to ask Mr. Putin and the 
authorities, why is there so much corruption in the country?"

Mr. Nemtsov was then detained by five officers as the crowd shouted, "Russia 
without Putin." He was later released. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. 
Belykh was released with him.

Mr. Nemtsov, a first deputy prime minister under President Boris N. Yeltsin, 
plans to run for president in March.

Mr. Putin is barred by the Constitution from running for a third consecutive 
term, and has pledged to abide by that rule, but has made it clear that he 
intends to continue to wield influence after the presidential election.

In Washington, Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, expressed concern 
about "the aggressive tactics used by Russian authorities against opposition 
protesters" and called for Mr. Kasparov and other opposition leaders to be 
treaded fairly, with access to lawyers.

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