The diverse prodemocracy coalition of "dissenters" led by chess
grandmaster Garry Kasparov confronted what he calls Vladimir Putin's
"police state" by successfully staging officially forbidden small
rallies in Russia's two largest cities last weekend.
Police easily prevailed in the street showdowns against
protesters, many of them elderly, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But
the sometimes harsh overreaction by thousands of helmeted riot
troopers, wearing body armor and wielding truncheons, has led Mr.
Kasparov - himself hauled away by police on Moscow's central Pushkin
Square Saturday and detained for several hours - to declare that he
is winning the debate.
"Today, the mask came off the Putin police state," said Kasparov
in a statement Sunday. "They are violating the Constitution. It's
obvious the regime is nervous and unstable if this is how they react
to a nonviolent march."
Kasparov's coalition, called The Other Russia, is a collection of
liberals, leftists, neocommunists, and moderate nationalists who
agree only that civil liberties are being snuffed out under Mr.
Putin's increasingly authoritarian rule and that dramatic public
action is needed to awaken society to the danger. Critics say that
their tactic of holding rallies that have been banned by authorities
The Other Russia's application for a permit to march at Pushkin
Square Saturday was rejected, though City Hall on Wednesday agreed
to let the group meet at Turgenev Square.
9,000 troops arrest 170 protesters
But Kasparov and a few hundred Other Russia supporters planned to
meet at Pushkin Square nevertheless.
Ahead of the march, the City Prosecutor's Office reiterated its
March order for the National Bolsheviks, a core party in the Other
Russia coalition, to cease its participation in rallies. The office
recommended last month that the City Court label the party an
extremist group, citing violation of the country's new anti-
On Saturday morning, the Main Interior Directorate's official
representative Yevgeniy Gildeyev warned that the police would be
tough on the protesters.
"It is not important for the police what action is being held and
what people are demanding. The main thing for us is whether the
action has been sanctioned, whether it has been allowed or banned by
the authorities," he told Ehko Moskovy radio station. "In this
respect, our direct duty is to suppress all the activities that will
be carried out illegally. These [activities] violate the law, which
An estimated 9,000 police and Interior troops descended on
Pushkin Square Saturday, where only a few hundred The Other Russia
supporters turned out for the "Dissenters' March."
Lines of troops boxed in the small group of protesters, then
repeatedly charged them, beating many and dragging several away in a
lock position with truncheons pulled tight against their throats.
Pro-Kremlin protesters rally nearby, unhindered
Across the square, and unhindered by the phalanxes of riot
police, about 1,000 members of the pro-Kremlin "Young Guard" youth
movement were holding a rally in support of Putin. …