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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Samara's Police Are Accused of Bullying

At least 13 people helping organize an opposition march in Samara have been detained since May 8 in campaign of intimidation, a march spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Police, however, accused the activists of deliberately breaking the law to draw attention to Friday's Dissenters' March.

Samara authorities authorized the march last Friday, reversing an earlier ban amid pressure from the European Union. The march will coincide with a Russia-EU summit outside Samara.

The march spokeswoman, Anastasia Kurt-Adzhiyeva, said 13 to 15 people had been detained, including two march organizers Tuesday and two people posting flyers Monday. "Police in various guises are detaining anybody involved in promoting the march," Kurt-Adzhiyeva said by telephone from Samara. Kurt-Adzhiyeva herself was detained Sunday.

Samara police directed all inquiries to a Interior Ministry media center set up in Tolyatti for the Russia-EU summit, which will be held in a resort town between the two cities. "These organizers are deliberately being provocative," ministry spokesman Pavel Klimovsky said. "They are committing petty crimes hoping that police will arrest them. In that way, they hope more people will pay attention to their cause."

Klimovsky said he could not comment on individual cases because he was not familiar with them. He said police would elaborate on security surrounding the Dissenters' March at a news conference Thursday.

Kurt-Adzhiyeva said plainclothes police officers approached march organizer Mikhail Merkushin near Samara's Sovietskaya metro station at around 5 p.m. Tuesday. The officers offered no identification before handcuffing him, she said.

While in custody at the Samara district police station, Merkushin answered questions about the other organizers, the number of participants and the time and route of the march -- information already known to City Hall, Kurt-Adzhiyeva said. Merkushin was released three hours later with the explanation that he had been mistaken for a bank-card fraudster, she said.

The other march organizer detained Tuesday, Yury Chervinchuk, was later told that he had accidentally been caught up in an anti-terror drive ahead of the summit, Kurt-Adzhiyeva said.

On Monday, police detained march promoters Ilya Ivanov and Yury Surguchyov for purportedly posting flyers in the wrong places.

The Dissenters' March will be the first permitted by municipal authorities. Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod have banned two marches apiece over the past six months.