Russia 090313 Basic Political Developments

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Land mine explosion in Chechnya kills civilian

MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - A civilian was killed in an antipersonnel mine explosion in southern Chechnya, a police official in the southern Russian republic said on Friday.

The incident occurred on Thursday in a wooded area near the village of Dargo in the Vedeno district, police said, adding that the details were being investigated.

Major fighting between federal troops and separatists in Chechnya ended years ago, but militants continue staging attacks on troops and authorities. Woods and mountains remain littered with mines and booby traps.

Police say unauthorized action in Moscow involved 30 people

MOSCOW, March 12 (Itar-Tass) – About 30 people took part in the attempt to organize an unauthorized street action in Moscow Thursday night, Victor Biryukov, the chief press officer of Moscow City’s Department of the Interior said.

The number of mass media people who had come to cover the event was twice as big as usual.

About ten participants in the action were detained.

Interior officials said the participants in the action, which the city authorities had denied permission for, gathered on the downtown Prospekt Mira Avenue and started moving by sidewalks towards the Sukharevskaya metro station, located at the crossroads of Prospekt Mira and another very busy transport artery, the Garden Ring.

As they reached a place not far from the metro, they went into the carriageway of the street after the red light for pedestrians had switched on, and the traffic had to stop for a short while in both directions.

“Administrative protocols are being filled out on the detained citizens at the moment” at a police branch where they were delivered right from the street. “In most probability, the court will award penalties to them,” Biryukov said.

He indicated there are no reporters among the detainees.

“A small confusion occurred when the policemen detained several reporters in the crowd of people but when the situation was clarified they police let them go immediately,” Biryukov said.

Earlier, representatives of the United Civic Front said they would hold ‘marches of dissenters’ in Moscow and a few other Russian cities March 12. They did not have permissions from local authorities for such actions anywhere, however.

The Interior Ministry warned them at once that any actions of this kind are inadmissible, and Deputy Minister Mikhail Sukhodolsky said the police will cut short toughly all the attempts to hold them.

Moscow police placed about 4,000 inspectors in various places of the downtown Thursday night. Their main duty was to ensure law and order during and after a game between the Moscow-based CSKA football club and the Shakhtar club from the East Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

The two teams played at the Luzhniki stadium.

The number of policemen placed at the sites where the ‘dissenters’ planned holding their actions was about 450.

There were no mass actions under the United Civic Front auspices in other cities either.

In St Petersburg, the police detained five ‘dissenters’ who tried to organize an unauthorized picket.

Russian opposition holds 'Day of Dissent'

updated 2:27 p.m. ET March 12, 2009

MOSCOW - Kremlin opponents led police on a chase through Moscow's subway system on Thursday, then emerged to march down a major avenue and call for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's resignation.

It was the largest of a handful of protests across Russia, and several activists and journalists were detained, including an Associated Press writer and photographer who were later released.

In Moscow, St. Petersburg and a few other cities, activists linked to the opposition movements of former chess champion Garry Kasparov were criticizing the government's response to the financial crisis, demanding Putin's resignation and defending their right to public expression.

The protests were planned in stealth to avoid a police crackdown, said Alexander Averin, a member of Kasparov's new movement, Solidarity.

In Moscow, activists met in the evening at a central subway station, where organizers had said they would announce further plans. Police have broken up previous protests, beating and detaining opposition activists, journalists and passers-by, and Averin said they did not want to tip off the authorities ahead of time.

But the time and place of the initial gathering was announced on the Internet, and more than 50 police were on the platform at the appointed hour, outnumbering scattered groups of activists.

Shouting through bullhorns, police ordered people to leave the platform and head out onto the street, but several dozen protesters made their way on trains to another station and continued moving through the underground system. They shouted "Russia without Putin!" and "Down with KGB power!"

Dozens of activists emerged from a station a few kilometers (miles) away and marched down Propekt Mira or Peace Avenue, shouting slogans, unfurling a banner that read "Putin — out" and burning a portrait of President Dmitry Medvedev before dispersing without major incident.

An AP reporter and photographer were detained at the subway station and held at a police station there for an hour, along with four other journalists and a Moscow coordinator for Kasparov's United Civil Front, Lolita Tsaria, who was detained as she left the station and tried to unfurl a banner. Two plainclothes officers dragged her to the police station.

The Moscow police press service said about 10 people were detained and indicated all had been released or soon would be, with some facing fines.

The rally in St. Petersburg attracted only a handful of people, one of whom was detained. Averin said he had no turnout figures for protests in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

Protests ranged from opposing price rises on transportation, including the St. Petersburg subway, to anger that the government has not done more to help businesses.

Russia's small and disorganized opposition forces hope to capitalize on social discontent as the economic downturn deepens.

"There is a definite growth of the protest mood among the population," said Olga Kurnosova, a St. Petersburg leader of another of Kasparov's groups, Other Russia.

None of Thursday's protests, collectively called the "Day of Dissent," had been cleared with city authorities, and police had warned they would intervene. Opposition activists contend that the law does not require permission for protests.

Police also detained several activists ahead of Thursday's protests.

Oleg Kozlovsky, head of the opposition group Oborona, or Defense, said police detained him Wednesday outside Moscow State University, where he was distributing leaflets and addressing students using a megaphone.

Kozlovsky was released later Wednesday, but he said three colleagues who were detained Tuesday remained in custody.

Kasparov was in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he planned to meet with residents who are being forced from their homes as Russia prepares to build Olympic facilities ahead of the 2014 Winter Games.


AP correspondents Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Irina Titova in St. Petersburg, Russia, contributed to this report.
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