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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists, Liberals Protest in City Center

For MTDemonstrators listening to a speaker on Teatralnaya Ploshchad on Saturday.
Opposition rallies and marches brought about 2,500 people onto the streets of central Moscow on Saturday to protest illegal construction, military conscription and housing reform.

Police detained at least 14 people, including 10 members of the liberal youth group Pora, a leader of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, and a few members of a pro-Kremlin youth organization who threw chicken legs at protesters.

Saturday's demonstrations come amid a flurry of anti-government rallies that one opposition figure said Sunday was a sign of growing discontent with the authorities.

"This is not a coincidence," said Pavel Basanets, a Communist official and a veteran of the Foreign Intelligence Service. He declined to elaborate further.

The rallies -- by Communists and National Bolsheviks on one side of the political spectrum and Yabloko and Garry Kasparov's United Civil Front on the other -- appeared to be an attempt by the fractured opposition to drum up public support ahead of December's State Duma elections.

Some 1,500 to 2,500 people showed up for the largest rally at noon on Teatralnaya Ploshchad, in front of Bolshoi Theater, Communist organizers said.

About 30 minutes before the rally, 450 people gathered on Pushkin Square and marched down Tverskaya Ulitsa to join the event on Teatralnaya Ploshchad. Police kept a close eye on the unsanctioned march but did not interfere.

On Teatralnaya Ploshchad, people chanted: "Shame on United Russia!" and "Shame on the authorities!" as they listened to speakers addressing them from the back of a truck.

Speakers denounced what they called illegal construction in Moscow by the federal government and City Hall and the illegal felling of trees for new construction. They said all opposition groups should unite on these two issues.

On Pushkin Square, Olga Miryasova, member of the Institute of Collective Action, a nongovernmental organization, spoke of how housing reforms that came into affect Jan. 1 allow Muscovites to own the land under their apartment buildings. "But in practice, nobody is letting them register it," she said.

Sergei Mitrokhin, a City Duma deputy with Yabloko, urged opposition supporters to rally against tree felling at an event attended by Mayor Yury Luzhkov on Poklonnaya Gora later this month.

Later Saturday, 200 liberals and Communists gathered on Turgenev Square to protest mandatory military conscription and to call for the creation of a professional army. Participants represented Yabloko, the Union of Right Forces, the United Civil Front, the Communist Party, Working Russia and several youth movements, including Pora and Smena.

About 100 of the protesters later broke away for an unsanctioned march on Myasnitskaya Ulitsa toward Lubyanskaya Ploshchad. A group of young people from Nashi, the pro-Kremlin group, tried to block the marchers as they approached Myasnitskaya Ulitsa. The marchers broke through and 10 were quickly detained by riot police. All 10 belonged to Pora, said Marina Litvinovich, an official with the United Civil Front.

Three people with Young Russia, another pro-Kremlin group, were detained after they threw chicken legs at protesters on Turgenev Square, Interfax reported.

Also detained Saturday was the head of the Moscow branch of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, Yury Chervinchuk, a Communist official, Pyotr Miloserdov, said Sunday. He linked the detention to Chervinchuk's appeal earlier Saturday on Turgenev Square for people to show up on Pushkin Square for a Dissenters March on April 14. Police forcefully broke up Dissenters' Marches by the opposition in Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg last month.

Despite the opposition's apparent attempts to win public support ahead of elections, many participants at Saturday's rallies showed little enthusiasm for the issues being discussed.

Young people holding banners on both Pushkin and Teatralnaya squares seemed to pay no attention to what was happening, laughing and discussing personal matters with one another.

Young people wearing jackets of the Union of Communist Youth stood in a row beneath the truck on Teatralnaya Ploshchad and openly made fun of the mostly elderly people gathered around them.