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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Pan Olympic 'Performance'

MTA man in a Putin mask rallying with other protesters against the Sochi bid Tuesday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.
With Russia bracing for the Thursday morning announcement of whether Sochi has won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, some 50 protesters gathered Tuesday in central Moscow to oppose the Black Sea resort's bid.

And for the most part it was a quiet affair that bore little resemblance to Dissenters' Marches or gay rights demonstrations in recent months that have ended in clashes between protesters and police.

Quiet, that is, until protester Alexander Izotkin donned a rubber mask of President Vladimir Putin and scraped along the cement on his cross-country skis up to the Mayakovsky monument on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, a show that angered the handful of police officers on duty.

Police immediately rushed into the crowd, with one burly officer ripping the Putin mask off Izotkin's head and detaining him, while other officers ordered demonstrators to disperse, despite the fact that they had permission from City Hall to hold the rally.

"They have permission to picket, not for a theatrical performance," one officer, who was trying pull a banner from a protester's hands, said when asked why a sanctioned rally was being broken up.

Police also detained Dmitry Kokorev, leader of a group with the unambiguous name Against the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and the demonstration continued without the two detainees, despite police attempts to shut it down.

The demonstrators said a Sochi victory would mean inevitable and irreparable damage to the local environment, and that local residents would be forced out off their homes and jobs to accommodate construction.

"We love sports, but we protest Olympic competitions on the ruins of local nature and with local residents losing their homes and businesses," Kokorev said before his detention.

Most of the planned Olympic venues are slated to be built on nature reserves and will result in the destruction of a unique natural habitat, Kokorev said.

More than 1,000 private homes will be demolished to make way for construction of facilities on the territory of the Imeretinskaya Lowland, said Nina Nesterova, a Moscow State University student who helped organize the protest.

Most of the people who will be displaced are already retired and subsist by renting out rooms to vacationers, she said. "Now they will lose everything and not receive adequate compensation," Nesterova said.

Officials have vowed that a Sochi victory would mean more jobs for locals, though Kokorev said only large companies would reap financial windfalls — at the expense of smaller businesses.

Many passers-by, however, were eager for a Russian victory, while some were more ambivalent.

"I do not believe we will win, so this rally has no point," said Zhanna Suchkova, a 45-year-old hairdresser.

Others expressed cynicism.

"This will only benefit Putin and those who obtain tenders for construction," said engineer Viktor Doronkin, 54.

After about 40 minutes police finally managed to disperse the protesters, and Kokorev said by telephone after his detention that he and Izotkin had been charged with violating demonstration rules and that a magistrates court would hear the case on July 11.

On Monday, the man whose visage landed Izotkin in police custody landed in Guatemala City to throw his support in person behind the Sochi bid.

Putin flew to the Guatemalan capital immediately after wrapping his visit with U.S. President George W. Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine. He will return to Moscow after the International Olympic Committee announces the winner Wednesday evening, with Sochi facing competing bids from Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea.