By Ria Novosti
Twenty protesters were detained at an unauthorized rally in front of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in downtown Moscow on Tuesday, police said.
An opposition activist, Alexander Averin, said in his LiveJournal blog that the protest rally was held by supporters of the Other Russia unregistered party and other civil activists. He said the rally was against the March 4 presidential elections that critics claim will be illegitimate.
A RIA Novosti correspondent reported that protesters unfolded a banner, threw opposition leaflets and chanted mottos. The banner read “Stop Dictatorship” and the mottos criticized Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, according to Averin’s blog.
Police warned protesters that the rally was not sanctioned by authorities. When they refused to obey, police officers detained them. Some of the rally participants resisted the arrest, police said.
According to the Echo of Moscow liberal radio station, the arrestees’ associates said police officers used “brutal physical force” against opposition activists, and some protesters were injured. But police said officers acted strictly in line with the law.
Vladimir Putin-led United Russia party won the December 4 parliamentary elections in Russia but critics claimed the vote had been skewed in favor of United Russia. The authorities admitted that minor violations had occurred during the vote, but denied claims that the irregularities affected the vote’s results.
Vote rigging allegations led to the largest anti-government protests for almost two decades, with
demonstrators demanding a rerun and the dismissal of election chief Vladimir Churov.
Putin, the frontrunner in this year’s election campaign, served two terms as Russia’s president between 2000 and 2008, but the Constitution barred him from standing for a third consecutive term. He became prime minister after his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, was elected president.
Skeptically minded analysts say Putin may fail to win the March 4 presidential election in the first round, being forced into a runoff. However, surveys by state pollsters suggest his victory in the first round is likely.