Canceled March Draws Big Crowd

APPolice guarding an apartment building where activists were holed up Tuesday.
More than 300 OMON and Interior Ministry troops and hundreds of journalists poured onto Chistoprudny Bulvar on Tuesday evening in anticipation of a protest by the Other Russia opposition coalition -- only to discover that the protest had been called off.

Organizers, who had been denied permission for the march by city authorities, said they canceled the march, due to start at 6 p.m., for safety reasons after holding talks with police.

As journalists and security troops milled around and police lined Chistoprudny Bulvar from Chistiye Prudy metro to Ulitsa Pokrovka, fewer than a dozen protesters turned up.

One man unfurled a United Civil Front banner and was led away by police. Interfax reported that he was arrested, citing a police source. Another man was detained by police after shouting, "Free Russia!"

One prospective protester, television repairman Ivan Molchanov, said he attended in opposition to the Putin regime.

"All they do is trade in oil," he said. "They have taken away our culture."

Dmitry Pislar, a representative of the For Human Rights movement, said he came to protest against army conditions in the run-up to Saturday's parade.

"They call it a Victory Day, but it's not a Victory Day," he said.

Speaking on the telephone, Lyudmila Mamina, the spokeswoman for The Other Russia, said the organizers had determined that United Civil Front leader Garry Kasparov would be arrested if he attended.

"We received concrete information that if Mr. Kasparov attended, he would be arrested and detained," Mamina said. "So he decided not to attend -- both he and [banned National Bolshevik Party head Eduard] Limonov," Mamina said, declining to name the source of the information.

The city police said it held talks with the march organizers before the cancellation.

"The Mayor's Office has decided that the original decision should stand," said city police spokesman Viktor Biryukov. "We have spoken with the organizers of the march, and it has been canceled."

Standing beside the monument to writer Alexander Griboyedov, The Other Russia coalition member Denis Bilunov explained the organization's decision to journalists.

"We are canceling the protest because it's not safe for people," Bilunov said. "We won't hold this event, since we can't put people at risk," Interfax reported.

Around 40 protesters, including some journalists, were arrested on Ulitsa Pokrovka after trying to attend the march and to hold a flash mob, Interfax reported.

Earlier Tuesday, more than a dozen opposition activists were taken to a police station after voluntarily coming out of an apartment near Kolomenskaya metro station, where they had barricaded themselves against police.

One of the activists, Darya Dorokhina, said she and 16 other activists had been preparing in the apartment for the march. When they tried to leave, they were stopped by police stationed in the stairwell, and the electricity in the apartment was subsequently shut off, Dorokhina said by telephone at the time from the apartment.

Later, speaking from a Nagatinsky District police station at around 5:30 p.m., she said the 17 activists were being asked to provide their personal information but had not been arrested or charged with any offense.

"They gave us no official reason for why we've been detained. But obviously it was to prevent us from going to the Dissenters' March," Dorokhina said.

Staff Writers Catrina Stewart and Anna Malpas contributed to this report.