- Title: RUSSIA: Russian protesters demand freedom for opposition leaders
- Date: 17th January 2011
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (JANUARY 16, 2011) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RALLY STARTING, PROTESTERS HOLDING RED-AND-WHITE FLAG PEOPLE IN ROW WITH HAND-MADE PLACARDS PEOPLE WITH PLACARDS CHANTING ANTI-GOVERNMENT SLOGANS ONE OF PROTEST LEADERS, SERGEI UDALTSOV, AMONG HIS COMRADES MAN HOLDING HAND-MADE PLACARD OVER HEAD WITH NAMES OF PROSECUTED OPPOSITION JOURNALISTS (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) LEFT FRONT LEADER SERGEI UDALTSOV SAYING: "It's certainly a challenge to us and to the whole society. The rulers are obviously demonstrating that ahead of the upcoming [2012 presidential] elections they will be only strengthening the repressive pressure. We are not expecting any democratisation of the political life. That is why we came here to give our response, to demonstrate that they won't be able to frighten us with this pressure," POLICE OFFICERS AMONG PROTESTERS, PROTESTERS CHANTING "YOU WON'T FRIGHTEN US" (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SOLIDARITY OPPOSITION MOVEMENT MEMBER, ALEXEI KLIMENKO SAYING "It's a tragedy. How can you live in a country where there are no authorities of any level which you can trust, which you can appeal to, which you can respect?" WOMEN HOLDING PROTEST PLACARDS VARIOUS OF WOMAN HOLDING HAND-MADE POSTER WITH JAILED TYCOON MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY'S PHOTOGRAPH AND TEXT ACCUSING JUDICIAL SYSTEM OF LAWLESSNESS PEOPLE WITH PLACARDS, PHOTOGRAPHERS TAKING PICTURES POLICE OFFICERS WATCHING RALLY IN PROGRESS
- Embargoed: 1st February 2011 03:47
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russian Federation
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3PEASMVY3SV7O5YIRX4CR6M5B
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: About 50 people protested in Pushkin Square in the centre of Moscow on Sunday (January 16) against the mass arrests of opposition leaders in Russia.
The gathering, under the slogan "We will not back off!" was organised by the Left Front and Solidarity opposition movements.
Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov said the action was a response to the authorities tightening their grip on the opposition.
"It's certainly a challenge to us and to the whole society. The rulers are obviously demonstrating that ahead of the upcoming [2012 presidential] elections they will be only strengthening the repressive pressure. We are not expecting any democratisation of the political life. That is why we came here to give our response, to demonstrate that they won't be able to frighten us with this pressure," Udaltsov said.
Many protesters were holding placards blaming the Russian authorities and the the judicial system for lawlessness and the suppression of the opposition.
"It's a tragedy. How can you live in a country where there are no authorities of any level which you can trust, which you can appeal to, which you can respect?" said protester Alexei Klimenko, a scientist and one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement.
Some police units were deployed at Pushkin Square where the sanctioned protest took place but no detentions were made.
In December, jailed ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was found guilty of money laundering and theft of billions of dollars at a trial that has renewed doubts about the Kremlin's commitment to the rule of law.
Police detained at least 130 protesters at New Year's eve rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg against restrictions on freedom of assembly and a court decision to keep Khodorkovsky in jail.
A string of opposition leaders, heading a 1,500-strong protest in in central Moscow -- sanctioned by the authorities -- were among 70 people detained in the capital.
Solidarity leader Boris Nemtsov was imprisoned for 15 days for "disobedience to the police" and was set free on January 15.
Another oppositional leader, Konstantin Kosyakin, was imprisoned for 10 days under the same charges.
Also among those jailed was the leader of the opposition group Other Russia and writer Eduard Limonov, who was held for 15 days without participating in the December 31 protest at all.
Opposition activists traditionally stage demonstrations on Triumph Square in central Moscow on the last day of each month -- with 31 days symbolising the right to free assembly guaranteed under Article 31 of Russia's constitution.
It was for the first time since mid-2009, when the rallies in defence of the constitutional article began, that an opposition leader was thrown into jail.
Rights groups and Kremlin critics have been fighting a losing battle with authorities over the right to gather in public, and police routinely break up demonstrations.
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