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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Vow to Prevent March

MTFrom left, Limonov, Kasparov and Udaltsov speaking about the Dissenters' March at a news conference Thursday.
Moscow police vowed Thursday to prevent opposition activists from staging a march from Pushkin Square this weekend.

"I am officially announcing that police and OMON [riot police] will move hard and fast to head off any provocations by demonstrators, and the organizers will be held accountable," city police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said, Interfax reported.

A coalition of opposition groups known as The Other Russia predicted that 5,000 supporters would turn out for the Saturday protest, despite a ruling by Moscow authorities that it was illegal.

One of the organizers, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, warned that OMON riot police could violently disperse the protest as they did at two previous Dissenters' Marches in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod in March.

"We don't know how far the Kremlin will go," Kasparov, who is a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, said at a news conference Thursday.

The marchers plan to gather at Pushkin Square at noon Saturday and then walk along the Boulevard Ring to Turgenev Square.

City Hall has authorized a rally at Turgenev Square but refused permission for the march and the gathering at Pushkin Square. City officials said the pro-Kremlin Young Guard youth group earlier lodged an application to rally on Pushkin Square at noon Saturday.

Young Guard has promised to bring out around 15,000 people and is planning an additional rally on Vorobyovy Gory near Moscow State University.

On Thursday, the Moscow Helsinki Group, a human rights organization, sent an open letter to Mayor Yury Luzhkov urging him to prevent an OMON police crackdown on the Dissenters' March. Leaders of The Other Russia sent a similar letter to President Vladimir Putin and Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev earlier this week.

Two other Moscow rallies are also planned for Saturday. Union of Right Forces activists will protest purported falsifications in regional elections on Slavyanskaya Ploshchad at 1 p.m., while two nationalist groups will gather on Bolotnaya Ploshchad at 2 p.m.

Kasparov said there was potential for clashes between Other Russia protesters and the other groups.

State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov also warned potential marchers on Thursday that they could be "sucked into provocation" and swept up into violence, Interfax reported.

Gryzlov also said mass public gatherings should not be used to "create political instability."

"I believe they should be festive in nature, when people take to the street and celebrate certain events," Gryzlov said, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

Yabloko's St. Petersburg branch received a letter this week from city prosecutors accusing several members of the liberal party of violating the law on rallies and marches during the Dissenters' March that was dispersed by police there on March 3, Kommersant reported Thursday. Prosecutors urged the party not to allow similar violations in the future -- an appeal that Yabloko activists said was an attempt to deter them from participating in a Dissenters' March scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

The Other Russia's main members are the unregistered National Bolshevik Party, led by Eduard Limonov; Kasparov's United Civil Front; the Popular Democratic Union, headed by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov; and Sergei Udaltsov's Red Youth Vanguard.

Reuters, MT