Moscow: Russian riot police Wednesday arrested top opposition leaders and hundreds of activists who were
seeking to stage a protest rally against alleged ballot
rigging in favour of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin`s ruling
party during the parliament election.
The authorities have deployed thousands of riot police
and interior troops in the capital in the wake of last night`s
mass rally and demonstration against Prime Minister Putin,
whose United Russia won 238 seats in the 450-seat State
Duma in Sunday`s polls, down sharply from the 315 seats it won
in the last polls in 2007.
Ex-vice premier in Boris Yeltsin cabinet, Boris Nemtsov
and chief of the local chapter of liberal `Yabloko` party
Sergei Mitrokhin have been arrested in down-town Moscow, while
attempting to stage protest rally against alleged ballot
rigging at Sunday`s Duma polls.
ITAR-TASS news agency said Nemtsov, Mitrokhin and others
were arrested while trying to enter a `sanctioned` rally of
five thousand pro-Kremlin `Young Guard` youth group.
Opposition supporters shouted "Shame on you fascists!"
and "Russia without Putin" in a tense stand-off with hundreds
of pro-Kremlin youth who descended on the site in advance.
There is a total black out of the opposition rallies on
the state-controlled TV channels and the liberal websites
remain the only source of information.
However, the government-run RIA Novosti on its English
wire portal showed live webcast of events on the Triumfalnaya
Square (former Mayakovsky Square), the favourite place for
President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian Foreign
Ministry have reacted angrily at the US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton`s criticism of the Duma polls.
She said they were `neither free nor fair`.