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Russian Police Break Up Opposition March in Moscow


Russian police have detained opposition leader and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov as they broke up a Moscow rally organized by the Other Russia opposition coalition. The incident comes a week before parliamentary elections in the country. Anya Ardayeva reports for VOA from Moscow.

Some 3,000 protesters attended Saturday's opposition rally in central Moscow. They carried banners and shouted "Vladimir Putin, we didn't call for you."

Speaking at the rally, former world chess champion and now opposition leader Garry Kasparov warned that the Putin government is not, in his words, "allergic to blood." He said modern Russia is slipping back to its Soviet past, and continued, "You can't have a spontaneous demonstration of support of the regime. It is not an easy task for us, but I think it is very clear now for many Russians that what we see today is a soft version of the Soviet Union."

Another opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov of the pro-business Union of Right Forces, told the crowd that the authorities are afraid of the opposition. He said President Putin is leading Russia to the abuse of power, bureaucratic lawlessness, and uncontrolled corruption.

Mr. Putin is running at the top of the pro-Kremlin United Russia list, even though he is not a member of the party.

Police broke up the rally when the protesters tried to march to the national election commission to deliver a petition. In it, they claimed that the authorities have allowed so many campaign violations that, according to Kasparov, it adds up to "a conscious and planned breach of the Russian electoral system".

When demonstrators and police clashed, Kasparov and his bodyguards were bundled into a bus and driven to a police station.

This is the second time this year that the opposition leader has been arrested. In April, he was detained at a similar march.

Kasparov's Party, United Civil Front, has been barred from participating in the December 2 parliamentary vote. Most of the other parties in the Other Russia coalition, which includes mainstream politicians, leftists and nationalists, have also been barred.

Analysts say only the Communist Party and President Putin's United Russia party are likely to pass the 7 percent threshold required.

United Russia is expected to get two-thirds of the vote. The election will be followed by a presidential vote in March.

Vladimir Putin has said he will step down as president. The constitution does not allow him to serve more than two consecutive terms.

But he has also said that suggestions he could become Russia's prime minister are realistic.