Police Break Up Russian Protests
LIANE HANSEN, host:
In Russia, crowds gathered in St. Petersburg to protest President Vladimir Putin's growing authoritarianism. There are reports that police pushed some of the protestors to the ground and beat them. The demonstrations in St. Petersburg came a day after riot police violently stopped a similar rally in Moscow from taking place.
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Unidentified Group: (Speaking foreign language)
HANSEN: Yesterday, police arrested nearly 200 people in Moscow including chess champion Garry Kasparov. NPR's Gregory Feifer was at the protest, and he joins us. Greg, tell us what happened in St. Petersburg today.
GREGORY FEIFER: There are hundreds of people gathered there. We're surrounded by thousands of police and a police helicopter. Police blocked protestors from staging a planned marched and arrested tens of organizers earlier making their way there.
The main protest has broken up, and there are now reports that police began beating and arresting people leaving the site of the protest.
HANSEN: Describe the scene in Moscow yesterday.
FEIFER: Well, it was a massive police presence. There are also what appeared to be thousands of troops on the streets. They stopped a protest from taking place. The protest was organized - or the attempt was organized - by the Other Russia opposition group. What struck me especially was that police told demonstrators to leave the planned site of the rally to go to another part of the city, where a protest was allowed.
But once people gathered there, police had formed lines and they surged into the crowds, and they were making arrests there. The biggest arrest yesterday was that of Other Russia leader Garry Kasparov. I spoke to him outside the courthouse after he was released. He compared the police actions to last year's crackdowns in Belarus, saying that the authorities are no longer pretending to follow even their own laws.
Mr. GARRY KASPAROV (Member, Other Russia): Now, we stay somewhere between Belorussia and Zimbabwe. And some say that the cruelty of the police today in the Moscow street was even more outrageous than such acts on the streets of Minsk.
HANSEN: Greg, are any more protests expected?
FEIFER: I think so. Other Russia has said it plans to hold rallies in the future in other cities in Russia.
HANSEN: NPR's Gregory Feifer. Gregory, thanks a lot.
FEIFER: You're welcome.
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