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Kasparov Detained After Anti-Putin Rally in Moscow

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By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 25, 2007

MOSCOW, Nov. 24 -- Opposition leader Garry Kasparov was detained by police Saturday after he and a couple of hundred supporters attempted to march on Russia's Central Election Commission following a rally in Moscow that drew several thousand people.

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"They tried to push us back, but maybe then they got a new order, so they arrested us," said Kasparov, speaking to Echo Moskvy radio from a bus where he was being held. "I saw them beating people."

Meanwhile, a candidate in next Sunday's parliamentary elections from the small Yabloko party died Saturday from wounds sustained when he was shot four times outside his home Wednesday in the southern republic of Dagestan.

Police broke up rallies held by Other Russia, the coalition led by Kasparov, in several cities Saturday.

But the Moscow rally passed without incident and drew a larger-than-usual crowd for a Kasparov-led event, probably because of the participation of the Union of Right Forces, an opposition party that previously had kept its distance from the chess grandmaster and his allies.

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections, the Union of Right Forces has complained bitterly about pressure from the authorities and appears to be adopting a more radical anti-Kremlin stance.

Party officials said 17 regional leaders dropped their candidacies after facing threats, including one whose house was set on fire by unknown opponents. Interior Ministry police have seized 20 million copies of the party's newspaper, which the Union of Right Forces was planning to distribute to voters, party officials said.

The pro-Kremlin United Russia party is expected to win an overwhelming majority in the voting. But the campaign is the most closely controlled in post-Soviet history and has been marked by an atmosphere of intimidation, according to opposition leaders.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent member of parliament who also had been ambivalent about Kasparov's coalition, addressed the rally Saturday.

"The feeling of disgust and protest has made us come here," said Ryzhkov, whose Republican Party was refused registration and cannot run in the parliamentary elections.

As Ryzhkov and others spoke, pro-Kremlin agitators boomed cackling laughter from loudspeakers behind police, who made no move to stop them.

Russian political satirist Viktor Shenderovich noted in an interview at Saturday's rally that a similar stunt by the opposition would not last a minute if directed against President Vladimir Putin or a United Russia rally.

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