Kasparov Gets 5 Days for Marching

MTKasparov's supporters forming a ring around him to try to keep away riot police during the unsanctioned march along Myasnitskaya Ulitsa on Saturday.
Opposition leader Garry Kasparov was among dozens of activists detained Saturday, as riot police eventually quashed a thousands-strong rally against President Vladimir Putin that spilled into the central streets.

Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, which organized the so-called Dissenters' March, was remanded in custody for five days, his spokeswoman, Marina Litvinovich, said Sunday.

Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party, and Maria Gaidar, who heads the Union of Right Forces' Moscow candidate list, were also detained, but then released.

Up to 3,000 Other Russia supporters turned up midday Saturday for a sanctioned demonstration on Prospekt Akademika Sakharova, near the Krasniye Vorota metro station.

While pushing a general anti-Putin message, demonstrators were also there to protest violations of election law allegedly committed against opposition parties ahead of the Dec. 2 State Duma vote.

Supporters of the Union of Right Forces party, or SPS, which was taking part in an Other Russia event for the first time, swelled their ranks.

Boris Nemtsov, an SPS leader who has been nominated by the party's political council to run in the March presidential election, was among a host of opposition personalities to address the crowd over a PA system from atop a truck.

"The whole problem with Putin is that he is harsh and cynical," Nemtsov said. "We are fighting for a Russia against corruption. We are against hazing in the Army. We are here for a Russia without Putin," he added.

Nemtsov himself was detained Sunday at a Dissenters' March.

Kasparov, one of Putin's most outspoken critics, whose speeches are laced with attacks against a president he labels a dictator, thanked everybody for "overcoming fear" by turning up.

Eduard Limonov, leader of the banned National Bolshevik Party, listed parties that authorities had struck off the ballot for various reasons.

Gaidar, leader of the "Da!" youth movement, called Putin a "criminal" and, in a mock arrest, read him his rights.

Speeches were frequently interrupted by spontaneous outbursts of chants of "Russia without Putin!" and "We need a different Russia!" led by members of the banned NBP.

The last couple of weeks have seen a powerful media campaign boosting Putin and his subordinate United Russia party in the eyes of a mostly loyal electorate. Putin has commanded blanket news coverage -- something the opposition claims is illegal because the news reports provide United Russia with the overwhelming majority of free coverage. Putin heads the party's federal list.

After the hour-long demonstration, a roughly 200-strong contingent led by NBP activists broke away from the crowd, lit flares and breached a police cordon onto the Garden Ring road, which had not been closed off.

The chanting, flag-waving activists dodged the oncoming traffic before turning down Myasnitskaya Ulitsa. Their pace increased into to a flat-out sprint as riot police gave chase first on foot, then in buses. They were forced to slow down as it became clear that the riot police had blocked the end of the street, near a McDonalds restaurant by the Turgenevskaya metro station.

Seeking to submit complaints of election-related violation by the United Russia party to the Central Elections Commission office, near the Lubyanka metro station, Kasparov and Limonov, followed by Gaidar and Yabloko Youth head Ilya Yashin, followed the activists.

They never made it as far as McDonalds: Riot police, banging their metal shields with their batons, advanced while the police following them approached, squeezing the activists together.

The police grabbed the most vocal activists and pushed them inside vans.

They then went for Kasparov, who was enclosed in a ring of bodyguards, photographers and cameramen, but the bodyguards managed to repel them.

About 10 minutes later, as Kasparov retreated to take a different route to the elections commission, police circled his entourage, broke through his protectors and dragged him away. Wearing an almost comical grimace, Kasparov resisted, resulting in a minute-long scuffle.

"No matter what happens, get Kasparov," one riot police officer shouted to his colleagues.

Kasparov was eventually overcome and thrown into a bus. Dozens of jostling photographers clamored to get a shot of Kasparov waving and making the victory sign from the back of the bus.

Meshchansky District Court later charged Kasparov with resisting arrest and organizing a march, said Denis Bilunov, one of the march's organizers. Authorities had allowed a rally but expressly forbade any form of march.

Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova confirmed Bilunov's account, Interfax reported.

Kasparov will be held in custody until Thursday evening, Litvinovich said.

The U.S. presidential administration condemned the arrest, accusing Putin's government of stifling dissent.

Neither City Hall nor city police could be reached Sunday, but Bilunov said a court source told him that a total of 68 activists had been detained.

Afterward, police seemed to pluck people from the street at random.

When asked why seemingly peaceful bystanders were being targeted, one police officer answered: "Do you want me to [expletive] beat you with a baton?" He refused to give his name.

Eventually, Gaidar led a group of around 100 activists to a police cordon blocking the street where the election commission is located.

Police initially refused to let Gaidar and eight other SPS representatives through, though a commanding officer, after speaking with a nearby riot police chief, let Gaidar, the SPS members and a reporter approach the building.

"You submit the complaint and then you leave," was the condition issued by the commanding officer, who refused to give his name.

Once round the corner, out of sight of the supporters, an OMON van approached and stopped.

"You've got to be kidding!" said Gaidar, who was taken away, ostensibly because she had no identification documents. She was later released because, as a parliamentary candidate, she has immunity from prosecution.

The reporter and several others protested the trap and were allowed to walk away "as long as you don't look back," a policeman said.

Earlier, it turned out, Litvinovich and Bilunov had submitted a complaint and were told to expect an answer "within three days," Bilunov said.

The elections commission could not be reached to comment on the weekend.

SPS leader Nikita Belykh, who arrived shortly after Gaidar's detention, said the police actions had been "a clear violation of the law."

"Only the Prosecutor General's Office can sanction the arrest of someone with immunity," Belykh said.

In its report on the demonstration, Channel One, which described the activists as "aggressive extremists," said The Other Russia was duping elderly people into provoking the authorities.

Staff Writer Max Delany contributed to this report.