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Russian PM Defends Police Crackdown on Opposition Protesters


Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov says riot police acted "very correctly" in arresting democracy activist Garry Kasparov and more than 200 other anti-Kremlin protesters.

Mr. Zubkov said police took appropriate action in dealing with protesters who he said had wanted to provoke law enforcement agencies in Moscow and St. Petersburg. He spoke Tuesday in Helsinki, where he met with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhannen.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought Monday to link the protests held last Saturday and Sunday to foreign powers he said are "poking their runny noses" into Russian affairs.

The opposition coalition "Other Russia" organized the protests. It accused Mr. Putin of stifling democracy and ignoring Russia's constitution ahead of parliamentary elections this coming Sunday.

President Bush said Monday he is troubled by the Russian government's use of force to stop the protests, which he called peaceful. He also criticized Russian authorities for restricting journalists from reporting on the protests.

The European Union also criticized the arrests, and said Kasparov's five-day jail term makes it impossible for him to take part in the decisive phase of the parliamentary election campaign.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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