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Moscow, St. Petersburg to march in dissent

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Opposition marches will be held in Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Saturday and Sunday, with about 9,000 policemen being summoned to provide security in Moscow alone.
MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Opposition marches will be held in Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Saturday and Sunday, with about 9,000 policemen being summoned to provide security in Moscow alone.

A new March of Dissent is scheduled for Saturday in central Moscow and will gather supporters and members of the Other Russia that includes the People's Patriotic Union led by former Premier Mikhail Kasyanov, the banned National Bolshevik Party, the United Civil Front led by world chess champion Garry Kasparov and the Republican Party.

Initially, the organizers planned to stage a march in central Moscow, but Young Guards, a youth wing of the pro-presidential United Russia party, had filed an application for a rally in the same place earlier. So, the Other Russia was advised to hold an opposition march in another place.

Opposition leaders said they expected about 7,000 people to take part in the event but police cited a figure of 1,000. The march will demand a change in the Putin regime and free elections in light of recent legislative initiatives that increased the minimum number of required party members to 50,000, cancelled the "against all" option on the ballot papers, and raised the Duma threshold from 5% to 7%.

The Just Russia party, led by Federation Council (upper house) Speaker Sergei Mironov, will hold a conference at the Izmailovo hotel to demand the dismissal of Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the Gazeta.ru Web site said Friday.

Radical statements were made at another conference Thursday with all leaders of the Other Russia, including Andrei Illarionov, the former presidential adviser, attending, Gazeta.ru said.

"We have not witnessed a similar catastrophe with public institutions for decades, if not for a century," Illarionov said, adding that Russia, which was being compared to Poland in the early 1990s and to Bulgaria and Macedonia in the mid-1990s, was now being likened to Venezuela and Iran.

Kasparov told Gazeta.ru that the right to demonstrate was guaranteed by the Constitution and "nobody can infringe that right."

At a news conference Thursday the Other Russia asked police not to use force against participants in the new March of Dissent.

"We are hopeful the authorities will not be interested in street fighting," the Kommersant daily quoted Ivan Starikov from the People's Democratic Union as saying Friday.

However, Other Russia members doubt their appeal to security forces will be heard. Olga Kurnosova, an organizer of an analogous march in St. Petersburg, which is scheduled for April 15 and has also been banned by municipal authorities, said: "Police have been given strict instructions to disperse the March of Dissent," and Kasparov said riot police units had been arriving in Moscow from adjacent regions and even from Siberia.

Neither the Moscow city hall nor the city's police commented on the information, saying "9,000 law enforcers will provide security in Moscow Saturday."

Commenting on the coming marches State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said he opposed any rallies, where people attempt to express their opinion over Russian developments. "I believe [campaigns] should be festive, ... but protests that create political instability are dangerous."

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