The big bad Russian bears are whimpering for the police to save them.
Reuters reports that the Kremlin’s forces moved preemptively to destroy the “Other Russia” march before it began, including arresting Garry Kasparov before he could get to the Square and blocking Kasyanov from entering it (that’s him pictured below center in the arms of the stormtroopers, via Zaxi). A second march is planned tomorrow in St. Petersburg.
Russian riot police detained dozens of opposition activists, including chess champion Garry Kasparov, in Moscow on Saturday as they frustrated attempts to hold a banned protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule. Police pounced on protesters as they appeared in small groups near the city centre square, about one km (half a mile) from the Kremlin, which was the scene of the planned protest, a Reuters witness said. Those detained were loaded into buses by police. An aide to Kasparov, one of the leaders of the Other Russia opposition coalition that organised the protest, confirmed he was among those detained.
Other Russia, a disparate coalition of Kremlin opponents, called the “March of Discontent” to express their protest at what they see as an erosion of democratic freedoms under Putin. Kremlin supporters say Other Russia is trying to scuttle stability — with help from abroad — ahead of the 2008 presidential election, when Putin says he will step down. Police declared the protest illegal after Moscow city authorities refused permission for the protest on the grounds that pro-Kremlin youth activists had already booked the venue for their own rally.
A Reuters photographer and two members of a Reuters camera crew were detained by police at the scene and ordered onto buses. The camera crew was released but the photographer was still being detained. The camera crew were among several journalists detained as they filmed Mikhail Kasyanov (above center), another of the Other Russia leaders and a former prime minister.
“What is happening with our rulers? Are they sane or have they gone quite mad. They have brought in riot police from across the country,” Kasyanov said before police in camouflage fatigues and helmets moved in. There was a massive security presence around the venue at Moscow’s Pushkin Square. At least a thousand police could be seen in the square and on the streets leading into it. Some were wearing helmets with visors and body armour. A water cannon truck and several police trucks were stationed on the street leading from the square to the Kremlin. Insignia on the police vehicles showed that many of them had been drafted in from outside Moscow. Police herded everyone on the square who was not taking part in the pro-Kremlin rally — including shoppers and journalists — into a subway. Other Russia has marginal influence as the vast majority of Russians support Putin, who has overseen rising incomes and political stability. The group says it is using peaceful protest to pressure the Kremlin into holding free and fair elections in 2008. But the Kremlin and its supporters are wary of Other Russia, alleging the group is using street protests to stoke an uprising against Putin’s rule. Boris Berezovsky, a Russian multi-millionaire now living in London, said in an interview published on Friday he was fomenting a revolution to topple Putin.