Russian police thwart freedom-of-assembly protests

Reuters News
Posted: May 31, 2013 12:48 PM
Russian police thwart freedom-of-assembly protests

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained about 25 opponents of President Vladimir Putin who tried to protest on Friday against restrictions on freedom of assembly, activists said.

Police seized opposition figure Eduard Limonov and several supporters who attempted to demonstrate on a central Moscow square without official permission to gather there.

Some of the activists were hauled away minutes after they unfurled a black banner reading "Freedom of Assembly - Always and Everywhere!" and roughly shoved into police buses. Limonov's Other Russia group said about 20 were detained.

Seven protesters were detained in St. Petersburg, Interfax news agency cited police as saying. Moscow police could not immediately be reached for comment.

For several years, activists have tried to hold protests on the last day of every month that has 31 days, to draw attention to what opponents of Putin say is Kremlin suppression of the right to free assembly.

Freedom of assembly is guaranteed in Article 31 of Russia's constitution, but activists say the government restricts that right by requiring organisers to get official permission, which is frequently denied.

A law passed last year increased fines for organisers and protesters deemed to have violated public order, under what Putin's critics say is a crackdown on dissent since he returned to the presidency for a six-year term in May 2012.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Andrew Roche)