Russians rally for freedom of political prisoners

Russians rally for freedom of political prisoners
Wed Jun 12, 2013 20:34:49

Thousands of people have joined a rally in Russia in support of activists detained following last year’s violent clashes between police and protestors.

Carrying placards with pictures of political prisoners participants in the “For Your and Our Freedom” march walked through downtown Moscow in bright sunshine to Bolotnaya Square.

The march passed off largely peacefully, but its route re-traced that of a demonstration on May 6, 2012, which ended in a bloody melee and 650 detentions.

Twelve people are currently on trial, and another 16 under investigation, in relation to those skirmishes between riot police and protestors, which police say were instigated by radical activists. Opposition leaders maintain that the police provoked the violence.

“We want to protect our comrades from Bolotnaya Square from the illegal actions of the authorities,” said Viktor Ruktsov, 78, who was carrying a large poster of Ilya Gushchin, an activist arrested in February as a part of the so-called “Bolotnaya case.”

“Any of us could be there [in prison] at any moment,” he added.

City police said about 6,000 protestors turned up to the rally, while activists put the figure nearer 30,000. Last year’s May 6 rally attracted 8,000 people, according to police, or up to 100,000, according to some independent estimates.

Wednesday's event was attended by opposition figures including anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny, lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov, writer Dmitry Bykov, politician Vladimir Ryzhkov, and activist Ilya Yashin.

“Society is changing,” Gudkov told RIA Novosti, “if the authorities do not succeed in changing then the same thing will happen to them as has happened in Arab countries.”

Nine demonstrators were detained, according to the human rights website, for allegedly unveiling banners belonging to the socialist Left Front group, which was banned by Moscow prosecutors in April.

Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the group and one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, is currently under house arrest pending an investigation into his role during last year’s violence on Bolotnaya Sqaure.