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Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006 at 5:32 AM
December 17, 2006
Participants hold a poster depicting Anna Politkovskaya during an unauthorized rally to commemorate journalists, who had been killed in Russia, Moscow, Sunday, Dec.
About 2,500 Russians rallied in central Moscow to protest recent electoral law changes that the demonstrators said is enlarging the Kremlin's growing authoritarianism.
The protesters were met on Saturday by thousands of helmeted riot police, soldiers, attack dogs and a circling helicopter.
Opposition leaders said the show of force revealed the Kremlin's fear of dissent.
The demonstration, organised by several opposition groups who united under the banners of the Other Russia movement, was dubbed the "March of Those Who Disagree".
The activists held banners reading "Russia without [president Vladimir] Putin" and other placards criticising his government.
A police helicopter made an almost continuous low circle over the crowd, drowning out chants of "We need a different Russia!" and "defend the constitution!"
Speeches were made by opposition leaders including Garri Kasparov, the former world chess champion, and Mikhail Kasyanov, the former prime minister.
Organisers said police had detained 40 activists for alleged violations in Moscow and about 200 other protesters had been detained on their way to Moscow.
Natalya Morar, spokesman for Other Russia, said many had been taken off trains and buses and put into detention cells.
Show of force
Two water cannon trucks, huge rolls of razor wire and at least a dozen large alsation and rottweiler dogs were held in reserve.
"I'm in shock," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the few remaining independent deputies in the parliament.
"All this shows that Russia is not a democratic state, but a police state where any peaceful opposition demonstration is taken as a threat to the regime."
Polls consistently show that Putin is highly popular, with ratings above 70 per cent.
However, Kasparov said: "If there were two weeks of television without censorship, this government would collapse. They are afraid of us because they are scared that what we say will resonate with millions of people."
Activists of the pro-presidential movement Young Russia holding their movement's flags climb on a roof to protest an opposition rally in Moscow, Saturday, Dec.
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