May 24, 2013
Russian police block new anti-Putin rally
Plans for big new protests against Vladimir Putin fizzled on Wednesday after a show of force by Russian police who have detained more than 1,000 people in a crackdown since a parliamentary election dismissed by Kremlin foes as a fraud.
It was a setback for government opponents seeking to channel public anger over the election, widely seen as slanted in favour of Prime Minister Putin's ruling United Russia party, into a powerful protest movement.
Putin pressed ahead with his bid to return to the presidency next year, filing papers to register his candidacy, while former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev suggested the official results of Sunday's vote were a "lie" and called for a new election.
A day after police dispersed protesters in central Moscow and seized others before they could even reach the rally, detaining more than 300, opposition activists had planned a new demonstration at the same site 24 hours later.
But hundreds of helmeted riot police blocked off the square after nightfall, pushing back reporters and shouting through loudspeakers: "Respected citizens, please do not stop, walk on your way so as not to hinder others."
Three youths emerged near a subway station entrance, chanting: "We want free elections!". Riot police marched them off to one of the dozens of police buses and truck that lined the streets nearby.
In St Petersburg, about 250 people protested, most of them youngsters, shouting "Shame!" Police detained about 70.
Kremlin opponents are trying to maintain momentum after 5,000 people turned out on Monday night for the largest opposition protest in Moscow in years, demanding fair elections and chanting "Russia without Putin!".
Police and Putin's spokesman have said unapproved protests will be stopped. The Interior Ministry said some 50,000 officers and 2,000 ministry troops remained in Moscow after the election.
A test of the drive to pressure Putin with street protests will come on Saturday, when opponents hope for a big turnout at a rally near the Kremlin.