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THE WORLD

Police halt opposition rally in Russia

March 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA — Riot police wielding truncheons broke up an opposition rally in this central Russian city Saturday, detaining dozens of activists and beating some of them in the third major crackdown on a demonstration in recent months.

The activists focused on local issues but also accused the Kremlin of stifling free speech, silencing dissent and depriving them of a free and fair political process ahead of December parliamentary elections and next year's presidential vote.

Authorities had not given permission for the rally in a central square in Nizhny Novgorod, saying a demonstration could take place only far from the city center. Hundreds of riot police cordoned off the central square.

Still, organizer Natalya Morar said, several hundred protesters managed to hold a short rally -- dubbed the March of Those Who Disagree -- near the central square until police dragged them onto buses that took them to police stations. State-controlled TV channels made no mention of the rally in their newscasts.

Organizer Oksana Chelysheva said hundreds of activists had been pulled off trains and buses and detained on their way to the rally.

In December, police cracked down on an opposition rally in Moscow, and organizers said dozens of participants were detained.

A second rally, this month in St. Petersburg, was violently broken up by police.

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