By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya
MOSCOW (Reuters) - About 10,000 people staged a mass "stroll" through central Moscow on Sunday to test the state's tolerance a week after police beat and scattered demonstrators upset over Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency.
With few police in evidence, demonstrators gathered at a statue of revered poet Alexander Pushkin and walked down Moscow's Boulevard Ring to the site of an Occupy-style, 24-hour protest two km (1.25 miles) away. Police took no action.
"We are all here because we want justice in the country, we want an honest transition of power, we don't want a throne succession," said Nina, 45, a foreign language teacher who gave only her first name.
President from 2000-2008 and prime minister until his inauguration to a six-year Kremlin term on May 7, Putin has angered Russians who want change and fear the continuation of his rule will bring stagnation and repression.
Some 10,000 people turned out for the "test stroll", some wearing white ribbons reading "Russia without Putin".
It took place a week after police clashed with demonstrators on the eve of Putin's May 7 inauguration, beating some on the head with batons in the worst violence since a series of protests started in December.
Riot police detained more than 400 people at the May 6 protest and hundreds more on inauguration day, when they cleared streets near the path of Putin's convoy of peaceful protesters and bystanders, and grabbed people sitting at a sidewalk cafe.
Two opposition leaders detained last week, Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, are serving 15-day jail terms.
Following the crackdown, Boris Akunin, a popular detective novelist who has become a Kremlin critic, called for the event on Sunday to test whether Muscovites would be allowed to peacefully walk in their city.
The unsanctioned mass walk snarled traffic - and a woman handing out white ribbons advertised them as "free tickets to a police van ride" - but police left demonstrators alone and there were no reports of detentions.
"There are no police vans here, no police, no helicopters. They really let us walk free in the city now," said Nina.
Demonstrators ended their walk at the site of a round-the-clock protest dubbed Occupy Abai, named after a monument to a Kazakh poet that is its focal point. Akunin was met with applause at the monument and declared the stroll a success.
"We can all congratulate each other, we have re-established a law. In Russia, there is a law protecting demonstrations," Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker with the opposition Just Russia party, told the crowd. "It was forgotten and now it is revived."
The turnout on Sunday will please opposition leaders eager to maintain momentum, but the fate of the round-the-clock protest - where the crowd has numbered from dozens to some 2,000 - is unclear.
Putin, 59, has largely ignored the unrest that greeted his inauguration, the latest since anger boiled over in December over allegations of fraud in a parliamentary election.
But his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has been quoted as saying that the police had acted too softly and has hinted the round-the-clock protest could be dispersed.
Gudkov's son, Dmitry, also a lawmaker, invited people to meet on Tuesday by a Karl Marx monument near the Kremlin and said the round-the-clock protest would continue until at least June 12, when the next big opposition rally is planned.
(Editing by Steve Gutterman and Mark Heinrich)
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