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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Samara March Approved but Organizers Held

Samara authorities have granted permission for a Dissenters' March to be held in the city center during a Russia-EU summit, but police on Sunday detained several journalists and march organizers.

Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev, editor of the Samara edition of Novaya Gazeta, was detained along with his daughter Anastasia, Samarskaya Gazeta reporter Mikhail Kuteinikov and Yury Chervinchuk, a rally organizer. The four were held for three hours and released without charge.

"Two men stopped me, saying they had information that I was armed with grenades," march organizer Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva said by telephone Sunday.

Kurt-Adzhiyeva said she had received written permission to hold the march last Friday from a senior city official, Alexander Kuznetsov. The march is timed to coincide with the beginning of the Russia-EU summit in the Volga resort of Volzhsky Utyos near Samara.

Kurt-Adzhiyeva was distributing flyers advertising the march when she was stopped by police. She phoned her father, who arrived with Kuteinikov. Both were immediately detained. When Kurt-Adzhiyeva called Kuznetsov to demand an explanation, he refused to speak with her, she said.

The Samara march is the latest in a series of opposition rallies organized this year by The Other Russia, an opposition coalition led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Kurt-Adzhiyeva, 20, described herself as "a supporter" of The Other Russia.

Mikhail Gangan, another march organizer, said by telephone Sunday that the authorities had bowed to pressure from abroad in permitting the protest.

"Russia knows everybody will be watching," Gagan said. "How would European partners view the banning of such an event as a peaceful demonstration?" he added.

President Vladimir Putin will host the Russia-EU summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso are among the leaders expected to attend.

Thomas Steg, a spokesman for the German government, which currently holds the European Union presidency, urged Russia to respect human rights.

"Critical voices must be able to express themselves," Steg said Friday, The Associated Press reported.

Citing road repairs along the proposed route and the organizers' proposal to hold the march during the evening rush hour, Samara authorities had previously rejected The Other Russia's request.

The city reversed its decision on Friday several hours after police raided the Samara offices of Novaya Gazeta, confiscating two computers and preventing the release of its Monday issue.

Novaya Gazeta chief Dmitry Muratov said the raid was an attempt to pressure Sergei Kurt-Adzhiyev into steering his "independent, grown-up daughter" away from pushing ahead with plans to organize the march, Interfax reported.

Officers from the Interior Ministry's Samara regional office entered the newspaper at 11 a.m. Friday with a search warrant, Darya Grigoryan, a Novaya Gazeta journalist who was present during the raid, said by telephone Friday.

"They even ordered me to stop working on my laptop computer," Grigoryan said. Grigoryan said the officers claimed to have evidence that the newspaper was running unlicensed software on its computers.

Regional Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment Friday or Sunday.

The raid took place about 12 hours after a Kommersant journalist and two Ren-TV journalists were detained by Samara police while interviewing Gagan.

Pavel Sedakov, a reporter for Kommersant's Samara edition, said by telephone that he and the other two journalists were talking to Gagan in front of his building when they were detained.

"They took us to the police station and held us there for about 2 1/2 hours," Sedakov said. "They asked us if we had any connection with the march."

Sedakov said he had his press pass with him but that he had forgotten his passport.

"Usually in a situation like that they'll keep you until they've established your identity," Sedakov said. "But they were asking us what we knew about the march: how many people were going to take part, whether we knew the organizers. That's all public information. But they said they had their orders."

Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement that the actions of the police "appear timed to obstruct news coverage of a planned public demonstration."

"This harassment is preventing our colleagues from doing their jobs of informing the public, and it should stop at once," he added.

Ren-TV spokesman Anton Nazarov confirmed that the channel's journalists had been detained, but said they had merely forgotten their press passes at their hotel and were released after police established that they were, in fact, Ren-TV employees.

"It was in no way an attempt to influence our coverage," Nazarov said.

n The Federal Security Service said Friday that 1,700 officers had already been deployed in Samara in the run-up to the summit, and that an additional 3,500 border guards would provide security during the event, Itar-Tass reported.