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Police Outnumber Demonstrators at Opposition Rally in Moscow


Police and anti-riot troops far outnumbered demonstrators at an opposition rally in Moscow Saturday. The rally was called to protest what government opponents of President Vladimir Putin say is growing authoritarianism in the Kremlin. Bill Gasperini reports from VOA's Moscow bureau, about 2,000 opposition supporters gathered in Moscow's Triumph Square.

The protesters had originally planned to march down a main avenue in the capital, but authorities forbade the march. Opposition leaders said the reason authorities gave was that it would disrupt traffic.

Thousands of police and special troops surrounded the square where the demonstration was held, and scores of trucks, buses and other vehicles blocked access to Moscow's main avenue.

A coalition of opposition groups organized the protest. One of the groups, the United Civil Front, led by former chess champion Gary Kasparov, had tried for weeks to obtain proper permission for the march, but to no avail.

Alexander Hatov is the editor of a small newspaper for Kasparov's group.

He says, the authorities placed restrictions on the rally "because they are afraid of their own people." He says, in democratic countries, people can express their opposition with little problem.

Organizers say police detained several demonstrators for alleged violations. They also say police prevented many of their members from traveling to Moscow to join the protest.

A year from now, Russia is due to hold parliamentary elections, to be followed by a presidential vote in March 2008. President Putin is not permitted to run for another term.