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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2,000 Peacefully Protest the Kremlin

MTPeople waving flags as they listen to speeches by opposition leaders Kasparov and Limonov during a Dissenters' March rally on Pushkin Square on Monday.
Around 2,000 people gathered on Pushkin Square for a Dissenters' March rally Monday afternoon that ended in uncharacteristically peaceful fashion.

Watched closely by an equal number of Interior Ministry troops, demonstrators decried the Kremlin and heard speeches from opposition leaders such as Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov before dispersing without incident after 90 minutes. It was one of the few Dissenters' Marches this year that did not end in violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

Kasparov and other leaders of the opposition coalition The Other Russia, had vowed to march down Tverskaya Ulitsa to Teatralnaya Ploshchad after Monday's rally, despite the fact that City Hall had granted them permission only to gather at Pushkin Square.

But Kasparov called on demonstrators not to provoke possible violence by marching down Tverskaya, which had been cordoned off by police.

"This isn't our defeat but rather a tactical withdrawal," Kasparov told the crowd. "We see that [the authorities] are still eager for a bloodbath, so we suggest that you all should go home today."

An authorized Dissenters' March in St. Petersburg drew several hundred people Saturday and also went off without incident. Authorized Dissenters' Marches in Yekaterinburg and Murmansk on Tuesday each drew more than 100 people, Kasparov's web site said.

Monday's demonstration was the last Dissenters' March in Moscow until fall, organizers said. Kasparov said Tuesday that The Other Russia planned to evaluate the results of the demonstrations at a conference in Moscow next month. "We can say with certainty that the marches have changed the image of the Russian opposition," Kasparov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "It has become possible to establish cooperation between different opposition forces and form the basis for an opposition that would be able to compete with the Kremlin."

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, a fellow coalition member, has criticized the Dissenters' Marches and said the opposition should choose tactics other than street protests.

Alexander Averin, a spokesman for the banned National Bolshevik Party, whose activists are part of The Other Russia, said the coalition was concerned that too many rallies held too frequently could damage any momentum opposition forces have managed to establish.

At Monday's rally, pro-Kremlin youth groups staged theatrical disruptions that have become a standard component of any public gathering of Kremlin opponents. The voices of those addressing the crowd were drowned out several times by maniacal laughter coming from giant speakers mounted on a truck that repeatedly drove past the rally for the entirety of the event. Pro-Kremlin youth group Young Russia said on its web site that fellow pro-Kremlin group Nashi was behind the stunt.

Soon after the truck appeared, Young Russia activists tossed hundreds of leaflets from the roof of the Izvestia building to the street below. The leaflets urged people not to take part in the rally.