‘Hundreds protest Russian activist`s detention’

Demonstrators chanted "freedom for political prisoners!", but organisers warned the demonstrators.

Updated: Dec 30, 2011, 00:21 AM IST

Moscow: Hundreds of people on Thursday
demonstrated in a square in central Moscow against the
continued detention of left-wing activist Sergei Udaltsov.

Demonstrators chanted "freedom for political prisoners!",
but organisers warned the demonstrators through loudspeakers
to avoid shouting political slogans and showing banners.

They said the action had not been agreed with the police
and they wanted to avoid arrests ahead of the New Year. Police
also warned the demonstrators through their own megaphones
that "this demonstration is not sanctioned".

The rally was taking place amid a tense atmosphere on
Pushkin Square with dozens of police buses parked around the
square to form a security barrier and security forces keeping
a careful eye on proceedings, a correspondent reported.

But so far there was no unrest or arrests and the
protesters were politely applauding the speakers and obeying
their pleas to avoid provoking the situation.

The plight of Udaltsov, sentenced to three short
successive prison terms in recent weeks despite poor health
due to a hunger strike, became a rallying cause for the
opposition after their mass protests against Vladimir Putin.

"I am here to support Sergei Udaltsov," said protester
Alexander Lektman, 26. "He went on a hunger strike and that is
a great political gesture. I want our unjust political system
to change."

The demonstration, which gathered several hundred people
around a statue of Russia`s national poet Alexander Pushkin --
a prominent landmark in the very centre of the city -- would
have been almost unthinkable even weeks ago.

Before the wave of protests erupted after the December 4
parliamentary elections, police would habitually crack down on
opposition protests, often arresting dozens of people.

PTI